Bitter-sweet Brit awards as winning groups fail to appear

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The Verve won three Brit Awards last night to crown a triumphant year.

The band from Wigan were voted best British group. Their album Urban Hymns won best album. And they also won the best producer award along with their co-producers Youth and Chris Potter.

The group, currently on a national tour, were also nominated for best single for "Bitter Sweet Symphony". But that prize went to the all-female group All Saints for their song "Never Ever". All Saints also won the best video award for the same song.

Meanwhile, only a last-minute special award from Brit Award bosses saved the Spice Girls from playing also-rans to the new girls on the block. Triumphant with two awards and most of the headlines last year, the Spice Girls gained only one Brit nomination this year - for a video. But they performed at last night's pop showcase and were presented with a one-off "special award" for exceptional commercial success.

One of the surprise moments at the ceremony at the London Arena in Docklands, attended by leading lights in the music industry, was a special award to Elton John for his services to charity over the past year.

This was shown on film as it was presented to the singer by the Prime Minister Tony Blair "backstage" at the White House last week after Elton John had taken part in the special entertainment for a state banquet.

While the Verve have become widely known over the past year, not least for their single "The Drugs Don't Work", a number of awards went to artists who are far from household names, to show the amount of burgeoning talent in the British music industry.

Best newcomers were Stereophonics; best British male solo artist Finley Quaye, best British female solo artist Shola Ama; and best international newcomer, Eels.

Among the rather better known names, the best British dance act was Prodigy; best international male solo artist Jon Bon Jovi; best international female artist Bjork; best international group U2, and best soundtrack The Full Monty.

And to show the industry really does span the years the award for Outstanding Contribution to the British Music Industry went to veterans of 30 years in the business Fleetwood Mac.

The awards sparked off one moment of controversy, from one of the organisers, who highlighted the "hypocrisy" of bands too trendy to perform or in some cases even to pick up awards. Four out of the five best-group nominees the Verve, Oasis, Radiohead and the Prodigy were not at the awards ceremony, but most pleaded prior engagements.

- David Lister,

Arts News Editor