Pop: Somebody be outrageous. Quick

BRIT AWARDS

LONDON ARENA

NO IMPROMPTU cold showers, no pop star derrieres, not so much as a flying egg. Even with the generous array of targets at Tuesday night's Brits, including Cher, Cherie, Mo Mowlam and Whitney, the most controversial moment arrived when The Corrs were declared superior to REM and Bono said "bollocks".

The last two years' award ceremonies have seen the Deputy Prime Minister doused with the contents of an ice bucket by Chumbawamba's Danbert Nobacon, and Michael Jackson's ego bruised by the sight of Jarvis Cocker's behind. To avoid any further calamity, this year's event was so rigorously organised that every drop of atmosphere seemed to have been ushered out of the auditorium along with the hangers-on.

The difficulties that faced potential pranksters were manifold. First, they were up against a wall of security that would have made Parkhurst look like a holiday camp. At least two beefy men covered head to toe in gadgetry guarded each lamp-lit table. They seemed more concerned about errant celebrities than fans, since it took three of them to usher the pint-sized Kylie Minogue back to her place. To quell any political rallying, the New Labour contingent was seated well out of harm's way, though Boy George still entreated them to "leave our vegetables alone".

And would the audience have noticed anyway? Most of them seemed more concerned with who was scoffing the vol-au-vents than with who was winning prizes. The only real enthusiasm seemed to come from the competition-winners, who occasionally managed to outdo the canned applause with their squealing.

Johnny Vaughan did his best to spice up the proceedings, despite the fact that his carefully honed script had been stolen from his car the night before. His gentle ribbing sometimes bordered on rude, particularly when he hinted that Celine Dion resembled a certain part of a bus.

With teen acts dominating the charts, the organisers were clearly at a loss as to what to do with them all. A brainwave arrived in the form of an anodyne "Abba medley" in which Steps, B'witched, Billie and Cleopatra cavorted about the stage in panto outfits that were presumably intended to evoke the Seventies. Disappointingly, Boyzone got a slot to themselves as they grinned their way through Billy Ocean's "When the Going Gets Tough."

Some stars struggled to hide their disdain when they collected their prizes. As Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, took the podium after being awarded the best dance act, he waved a piece of paper saying: "Speechless", and stalked off in silence. Desperate not to be upstaged, Robbie Williams later held up a sign saying: "Legless", as he picked up his second award.

But the evening was not without its emotional moments. Seeing Bono weaving his way between the tables to present an award to the former world heavyweight champion Mohammed Ali for his contribution to the Drop The Debt campaign brought a genuine lump to the throat. And Cher, jiggling to her techno-inspired "Do You Believe" and surrounded by lookalike dancers, was enough to make your eyes water.

The climax of the show was when Stevie Wonder joined the lifetime achievers Eurythmics to perform a hotch-potch of their Eighties hits. But despite their best efforts to look hip, Lennox and Stewart's Union Jack suits were no match for Ginger Spice's patriotic get-up of two years ago.

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