Nice-but-dull Evans plays it safe on return to mainstream presenting

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THE SINGERS were not alone in feeling the tension. For Chris Evans, hosting the Brit Awards for the first time since 1996, it was a test of whether he could put his personal and business troubles behind him and return to the A-list of presenters.

And, after a show that avoided scandal and offence but lacked the banter with which he made his name, the jury was split. Gennaro Castaldo, of the retail chain HMV, said he thought Evans should be made the regular presenter. "He was very natural and relaxed and managed to control things without drawing attention to himself, so the whole focus was on the artists which is how it should be."

Mark Ellen, editor of Word magazine, said he thought Evans had been "slightly dull ... He might as well have gone on stage with a banner saying, `I'm a safe pair of hands, I've grown up, I'm not drunk, and I'm completely capable of appearing on mainstream terrestrial television so please give me my own chat show,'" he said. "He's one of our greatest broadcasters, an astonishing technician and very fast at thinking on his feet but he didn't show that maverick sensibility and unpredictability."

A Brits spokesman suggested that Evans's demeanour stemmed from the wish of Helen Terry, who took over as executive producer of the event this year, to make the music the focus of the show.

Beforehand, Evans said he intended to play it straight. "It's all about the music," he said.

Evans was involved in legal wrangling when he was sacked from Virgin radio after missing work due to drinking sessions with Billie Piper, a young singer he married. They split last year.