Rock: No Jarvis, no Verve, Nobacon

WHAT, wondered Ben Elton, would be "the Jarvis Cocker" at this year's Brit Awards? What would be the defining, heroic moment that matched Cocker's conquering the north face of Michael Jackson's ego in 1996? Two hours later, and our compere still didn't have an answer. Little did he know that "the Jarvis Cocker" had occurred offstage, in the audience; and it was, as he might say, a little bit of politics. While disgruntled Polygram employees lobbed eggs and waved placards outside the Docklands Arena on Monday, inside, Chumbawamba's Danbert Nobacon (he chose that name himself, believe it or not) gave John Prescott an early bath, possibly just because it was something to do while Fleetwood Mac were onstage. In a year when a pop star-ice bucket-MP interface means Noel accepting a cold beer from Tony at Number 10, this sort of disrespect can only be healthy. But it was nowhere near as daring or as fun as Cocker vs Jackson.

The snag was that a proper JC is the work of an individual, a mighty personality. It requires someone with the character (and drunkenness) of Oasis or Cocker, and this year there just weren't enough of those people present. The Verve, who won three awards, had better places to be, as did four other winners, the Prodigy, U2, Elton John and Eels - hence the elevation of All Saints, who were treated as if they were the most fantastic band of the decade on account of one catchy revamp of "Amazing Grace" with a talking introduction that doesn't scan.

The absenteeism was not the only clue that this year's Brits were more of a local gala than the international occasion they would have liked to be. Another giveaway came at the start of the evening, when the video screens showed a digest of 1997's news stories. One segment illustrated the triumph of electronic music with a shot of the Prodigy on two American magazine covers. That said a lot. However cool Britannia professes to be, our record industry's definition of success is to be recognised on the other side of the Atlantic.

And look at the reverence with which we were encouraged to treat the Hollywood celebs who deigned to attend: never mind that the actors made little effort to disguise their own contempt for the ceremony. "Claudia [Schiffer] and I are in England promoting our new movie, The Blackout," grinned Matthew Modine, just in case we imagined it was his respect for British music that had drawn him to our shores, while Samuel L Jackson recited a whole sales pitch for his new film, Jackie Brown. Joining him in his promotion was Pam Grier, his co-star, a blaxploitation heroine resurrected by Tarantino. And we were meant to be flattered? I doubt you'd get Shirley Bassey being invited to present an Oscar and then using the opportunity to plug the Propellerheads' album.

Most of the night had this relatively small-scale feel. Not even the Brits' specialism of exclusive, unusual duets - the yoking together of heterogeneous artists - lived up to the standard set in previous years. The coupling of the Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man and Texas may have seemed weird and wonderful, but their team-up had already been recorded as a single. And what a farrago it was, too. The song and the rap were Sellotaped to each other so clumsily that one wondered whether Method Man was actually a heckler on a Cocker-inspired guerrilla mission.

Later, Shola Ama sang one of her hits, with the pointless Dave Stewart strumming an acoustic guitar: a has-been accompanying a hasn't-been. The only glimmer of interest came from Stewart's wearing giant conker-shell earphones. I was hoping he'd nod his head to the music and impale his shoulder. Thank heavens, then, for Robbie Williams, a camp, hip-swivelling star in a PVC suit and high-heeled boots. Not only did he salvage the Brits' reputation for duets, he also did an exquisite job of intimidating Tom Jones.

The supposed climax of the show was a set by Fleetwood Mac ("You're never gonna get a gig like this!" crowed Elton, but, of course, you do get a gig like that every time you go to a Fleetwood Mac concert). Without wishing to belittle their record sales over the decades, picking the band for an Outstanding Achievement Award did smack of barrel-scraping, what with a desperate introduction which protested they were "no less substantial than any of the previous recipients", and the omission of half the band's set from the TV broadcast (which brings me back to the gallant Elton. He stayed onstage and danced through all four of Fleetwood Mac's songs, which was, I thought, several miles above and beyond the call of duty). What made their slot particularly painful was the canned clapping and cheering that was pumped through the PA. Presumably it was intended to fool TV viewers, but poor old Fleetwood Mac must have noticed that what they could hear from the crowd didn't match what they could see of it. The irony was that Elton had boasted several times that all the music on the show was live. Shame the audience wasn't.

Maybe the Brits organisers shouldn't be judged too harshly for this year's humdrum ceremony; maybe it was a symptom of British pop's not having the feverishly competitive creativity it had a couple of years ago. But the spectacle would have benefited from bigger stars, and more of the grand production numbers of previous years. The televisation would have benefited from being broadcast live, before all the results had been in the newspapers. And from having a camera trained on the Deputy MP's table. If the organisers had done all that, maybe the fake applause might not have been necessary.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + uncapped commission : SThree: Hello! I know most ...

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Performance Consultant Trainee

    £22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Consultant trainee opportunit...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - (Full marketing mix) - Knutsford

    £22000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Knu...

    Ashdown Group: Web Developer - ASP.NET, C#, MVC - London

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Web Developer -...

    Day In a Page

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world