Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Liveblog: Brits 2017

You can't keep a good blog down. You're equally unable, it appears, to keep a terrible blog down, and into that latter category falls the 2017 No Rock & Roll Fun Brits liveblog. Hello, everybody.

This year, we're back at the cavernous, soulless O2, but there's been a change onstage. Out goes Ant n Dec - let's hope they took the Brits Head of Antics with them too. In their place comes Dermot O'Leary. Dermot is a surprising choice of host for the Brits, in that he's a good presenter, charming company and - although he's going to be made to do a bit of business during the show - he'll be able to carry it off.

Oh, and Emma Willis is there too.

(Actually, although Emma Willis isn't the greatest presenter, at least someone at Brits HQ has remembered that women are capable of holding a microphone - there hasn't been a female presenter since Kylie in 2009.)

It wasn't meant to be Dermot though, with or without Emma. The original plan had been for Michael Buble to host. Buble cancelled because his son is seriously ill, which cramps the opportunity to be snarky about it.

Buble could have worked as a host - like James Blunt and Josh Groban, regardless of what you think about their ability to clear a room with their music - they're entertaining when being themselves. But two and a half hours of warm self-deprecation might have been pushing it.

The "Red carpet" is just starting on ITV2 - which is the sort of phrase that drains the soul, isn't it?

There's an hour of red carpet, so they're going to have to hassle them down the pathway.

ITV2 show a lot of adverts, don't they?

They're showing a look back at last year's Brits, "in case you've forgotten". In the way it's possible some people have forgotten the Blitz.

They nearly cut Ant & Dec out of it entirely.

Ed Sheeran is being grilled about what's going to be in store for his performance. "I've got a few things up my sleeve" he says, not especially mysteriously.

Ed's looking forward to seeing Skepta. This is as dull an interview as you'd expect.

On another part of the carpet, James Arthur is also being dull. He'd never have thought it would have been possible. And something or other is "one million per cent".

It's Little Mix. They can't believe how many nominations they've got. It's mental, apparently.

The Mix are promising "a completely different thing we've never done before". Singing in tune, maybe.

Are the dance routines going to be "quite saucy"?

They won't say.

This is illuminating stuff.

It's odd that the Brits have stuck with ITV, isn't it? ITV isn't really the home of Top Quality Awards any more - they've never had the Oscars; gave up on the BAFTAs and even the British Comedy Awards has gone elsehwere. The Brits now sits alongside that one where Carol Vorderman gives prizes to sick kiddies and what feels like a dozen events sponsored by third-tier TV listings mags which exist to give an excuse for Kym Marsh to squeeze into a couture boob tube, and for Helen Flanagan to fall out of similar.

Crisps, says an ad, are a big deal at Asda. That's the biggest newsline so far this evening.

They're talking about the Zaha Hadid Brits statues now, because you know how an ITV2 audience loves architectural talk.

Ellie Goulding's turned up and actually is trying to talk about music.

Along the corridor, Craig David is showing off his trainers. It's been sixteen years since he was last nominated and he hasn't really come up with anything to say in the meantime. "It's a prestigious award - as a kid growing up you always dreamed of the awards." Really? Kids dreaming of playing a poorly laid-out cave full of elderly men eating beef wellington? That's the dream?

Rag N Bone man now - "I don't usually wear a whistle, normally". Yeah, judging by the state of the jacket, that's a safe bet.

This, though, is a suit:

Rag N Bone is now talking about Ian Beale. That's how magic this evening is.

Next up, Blossoms - who look like The Wonder Stuff have just been released from six weeks being held hostage. They look a bit awkward.

More ads.

Christine And The Queens - "I'm expecting a great show" she says. Clearly they've never shown this in France, then.

"I'm just happy to be nominated" she says, "it's already winning to be amongst the category of powerful ladies."

The Category Of Powerful Ladies is a Alan Moore book waiting to be written.

Rita Ora trots up, four times nominated and never a win. She says her outfit is "emerald queen of the forest" but it looks like a Vajazzled ill-fitting camo jacket.

Emeli Sande, like all the other performers, is refusing to reveal the secret for her performance this evening. It's a parade of wait and see.

A note on diversity: this year's shortlist seems a little more adventurous than in previous years, but still less diverse than, for example, the Top 40 is. You can see they've tried, though. Sadly, it's like when Donald Trump finally manages to denounce anti-Semitism - knowing how hard the world had to push to get them there rather undermines the power of the message.

Stormzy actually looks really good in his suit. If you're going to do a suit, people, do a suit. Don't do it apologetically or ironically. That's the rule.

He's been challenged to get a selfie with Little Mix, which is a bit like challenging someone shoeless in the Arctic to get frostbite.

For fucks sake, the 1975 have turned up cosplaying Interview With The Vampire.

I'm frying eggs while Whiley is being very excited about being on TV - he's the first person who seems genuniely thrilled to be here.

Katy Perry is a consumate professional - she says as little as most of the other guests, but is able to disguise it.

She's into a rambling story about snot and Natalie Imbruglia.

Somehow the Red Carpet programme has managed to over run. Lets shoot over to ITV...

Robbie's star has sunk so low he's reduced to doing the Mastercard break bumpers this year.

Dermot O'Leary (and Emma Willis) is stood on top of the O2 to start the programme. With Williams, Mars and Sande in the line-up, you might choose to stay there, mate.

Little Mix are being carried onto the stage by what looks like those people who paint themselves silver and stand around at Covent Garden. The band themselves are wearing what would happen if Kwik Fit tried to make Beyonce's outfits out of used tyres.

This is Shout Out My Ex, which is one of the last year's best pop songs, to be fair.

And it's not The Saturdays.

Dermot's doing that thing where he sucks his finger and looks puzzled. And Emma's reading an autocue.

All everyone's love is being sent to Michael Buble - there was some genuine applause but in the cavernous O2 it sounded a little underwhelming.

Dermot's doing that thing where he shoves his fist into his mouth.

They're doing the social voting thing for best artist again this year, which is touching faith in democracy in the year we've just had.

David Tennant. Swoon. He's doing the female solo artist. Not like that.

Nom list:
Ellie Goulding
Emeli Sandé
Lianne La Havas

Emeli Sande has won, which suggests we're in for a night of the dullest lack of surprises ever.

That's a long walk to the stage for everyone tonight. Lots of coverage of walking.

Emeli mumbles something about the journey. She's brought her sister on stage with her, and thanks the rest of the family for good measure.

Actually maybe everyone else is getting thanked.

Oh. Already on to the adverts.

God, I despise that #fooddancing thing - you just know the phrase "the Great British Public" was uttered while it was being thought-swamped out of an advertising meeting

They're trailing The Voice during this. The words "are you a glutton for punishment" are implied.

Dermot just said the O2 is one of the great music venues, except it's not, is it? Apart from being the only place that size with a roof, it's not got much going for it.

Bruno Mars is dressed as New Edition tonight. We've got it if we want it, he tells us. Actually we're lumbered with it whether we like it or not.

Is "that's not showy" a compliment? If it is, that's the nicest thing I can say about this.

Mars is now telling the ladies he's going to break it down, because it's that part of the song.

Emma Willis loves Bruno Mars.

Maisie Williams and Romesh Ranganathan are here for the best band. Maisie has apparently come from touching up the paint in the bathrooms.

The 1975
Biffy Clyro
Little Mix

Little Mix versus Thom Yorke.

It's hard to say who'll win out the two bands playing tonight.

The 1975 win it.

This is, it turns out, mental. "The reason we're here is because of our album." Well, yes, that's how it works.

It's been fifteen minutes since the adverts. So lets have some more, then.

Samsung are showing the quality assurance process their phones go through. Even the ones which catch fire, presumably.

Just two hours left, everyone. Just two hours. Just...

Dermot is in the crowd of (probably) Brits School kids

Oh, yes, that is who they are.

Emma's been left on the stage to cue up Zane Lowe doing male solo artist. Zane Lowe!

David Bowie
Craig David
Michael Kiwanuka

David Bowie has won it. He hasn't turned up. "If David Bowie was here tonight, he wouldn't be here tonight" says Michael C Hall, picking up the prize.

"Lovely stuff" says Dermot, uncertain how to segue into Emeli Sande playing live.

They keep insisting that Emeli Sande has been away for four years, but she seems to have been everywhere all the time, and this song seems to be the same one she was doing during the Olympics, so how does that work?

Sande has dressed her dancers in the frumpiest outfits I have ever seen anyone dance in, and that includes that time one of Queen dressed up as Ena Sharples.

The clock says it was four minutes, but that felt a lot more like half of my remaining life dripping away during it.

"She is a firecracker" says Emma Willis, confusing competence with incandescence.

Oh, another break.

Breakthrough Award time. Rita Ora is doing the honours for this one, accompanied by The Sliding Rajar himself, Nick Grimshaw.

Rag'n'Bone Man

It should either be Skepta or Stormzy, but the dunderheads at the Brits are going to give it to Raggedy Boneman, aren't they?

Yes. Inevitably they do.

Apparently Ragged Bowman spent ten weeks at number one in Germany, which probably isn't going to help us with the Brexit negotiations.

He's unable to busk a thank you speech.

Back on the floor, Dermot is sitting at Ed Sheeran's table for a little chitty-chat.

And now The 1975 are taking to the stage to literally earn the award they've been given. They've brought a large gospel choir with them to... well, really, just to make the sides of stage seem a lot less empty as they're not really high enough in the mix to do anything much else. They could have done pot plants and lamps for a third of the budget.

They're flashing up some critical messages on a disgusting salmon pink background - I suspect it's intended as a 'ha! fuck you' to anyone who's criticised them in the past, but it actually comes across a little needy. "Trying too hard" reads one of the cards - and, yeah, that's actually valid criticism here.

A couple might have been wry, but spending so much time throwing them on the screen felt a little... well... like this:
"And now we move onto the liars..."

"It's time for a break." Of course it is.

The Brits, traditionally, doesn't have a 'those we have lost' section - presumably because back in the early days, pop star death was still quite rare and it was still a (relatively) young person's game, so there simply weren't enough stiffs to populate a three minute montage over Annie Lennox doing 'Where Have All The Flowers Gone'.

The movie industry - and the more classic-inclusive Grammys - have always had enough losses to justify a special departure gate.

This year, with Bowie and Leonard Cohen amongst the nominees, should be the one that makes the organisers realise it's time for a pause to remember those who died during the year. At the moment, we get the odd splash for very big names, but many significant figures are allowed to slip away without even a mention. It's right to give thanks for George Michael, but there should be room for Rick Parfitt, too.

If you must celebrate a rag & bone man... try this:

And they have done a full memorial section. Although the names are crowded on the screen so it's more like a video game than a moment of reflection.

Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirley have come on stage to pay tribute to George. Andrew looks more like Philip Green these days, it turns out.

It's nice to see all three of them on stage together again. It's easy to forget there was a time that Wham were presented as a four-piece....

Shirley talking about how a label gave the young band a chance, although the way Michael was screwed over by the labels probably not the best of memories.

Shirley's breaking down a bit.

This is quite a long talky bit.

They're bringing on Chris Martin to do A Different Corner, which is a bit like a tribute to Red Rum ending with the pantomime horse from Rentaghost running about the stage.

Martin is murdering this.

Chris Martin is pouring All The Emotions(TM) into this, like a man who bought a big tub of Emotions at Costco and is prepared to use it in one go.

"If I could, I would, I swear" says Chris Martin. But you can't, so you shouldn't, I'm afraid.

Ghostly bit of Prince saying "George Michael" on the big screen.

And then it's off to more adverts.

Meanwhile, it turns out that The 1975 might not have the smartest fans:

Yeah. Not hacked. Not really that edgy, either, come to that.

British single time...

Here's the noms:
Alan Walker – "Faded"
Calum Scott - "Dancing On My Own"
Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna – "This Is What You Came For"
Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – "Rockabye"
Coldplay – "Hymn for the Weekend"
James Arthur – "Say You Won't Let Go"
Jonas Blue featuring Dakota – "Fast Car"
Little Mix – "Shout Out to My Ex"
Tinie Tempah featuring Zara Larsson – "Girls Like"
ZAYN – "Pillowtalk"

Holly and Fearne are on ("both named after plants" says Emma helpfully) to do the honours.

Little Mix have won it. I suspect based on the options available, that's as good as it could be.

They manage to get lost heading from the audience to the stage, which is quite a feat.

A shot of Cowell sitting in the gloom, chewing and nodding.

Katy Perry being thrown on to stop people turning over at the 9pm programme junction. She appears to have got trapped in Bekconscot Model Village.

The houses are dancing with her which is at least better than just throwing human dancers at the stage in a bid to fill the space. Visually, it works pretty well.

Pretty the song is like half a No Doubt b-side masquerading as Romania's Eurovision entry.

There's two enormous dancing skeletons on the stage with her now. And Skip Marley, who isn't a giant skeleton.

Now the houses have legs.

Jonathan Ross - remember him? - has come on to give the Special Prize Allowing Us To Give A Prize To Someone We Like Award.

(Adele, and Global Success.)

Adele picks up the prize on video because she's a global success and doesn't need to turn up to shit like this.

Emma Willis is down at the table with Rog n Bowlmen. Dermot is also there. Remember the name - Rag n Bone Man will be the subject of 2022 Where Are The Now pieces.

Skepta is taking to the stage. No dancing houses. Oh, and ITV are muting the swearing which kind of misses the point of showing the programme.

They are putting 'Audio muted' on the screen, though, so 1975 fans don't think its ITV being hacked again.

So far, he's responding to the massive stage by moving around it and being good.

No dancing houses. No choir. Just lights and charisma.

British video vote is now closed. Your chance to shape destiny is over, unless the House Of Lords can slip something into the Article 50 Bill before it returns to the Commons.

Oh... the skeletons with Katy Perry were meant to be Trump and May? Missed that little bit of politics there; I assumed it was some sort of oblique reference to Pink Floyd.

It's international male awards time - Clara Amfo, Alice Levine & Laura Jackson, who had been doing the red carpet earlier. "You're doing a great job" they tell Dermot and Emma. Like being applauded by the B-team.

Bon Iver
Bruno Mars
Leonard Cohen
The Weeknd

Drake has won it. Not Bruno Mars. Not Mars, who turned up and did a song. Drake isn't even in the O2. He's not even in Greenwich. This is the closest thing we have to an upset.

The same trio do international female and international group - they don't even bother to read the nominations out.

Christine and the Queens

and then

A Tribe Called Quest
Drake and Future
Kings of Leon
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Twenty One Pilots

Beyonce and Tribe win. Not even a VT of them pretending to be delighted.

And before you can even go 'A Tribe Called...', it's the big reveal of the secret collaboration.

Coldplay and Chainsmokers. "We had to sign the official secrets act" trills Emma, apparently unaware that Stereogum announced the collaboration an hour ago.

Chris Martin gets mobbed by the crowd. But they let him go to finish the song.

This is as dull as you'd expect it to be.

Let's just focus on how they gave an award to Beyonce and didn't play a single fucking note of her music, shall we? Why the hell did the Best International Male get their nominations treated like a proper award and the female shortlist didn't even have their names read out?

Did Christine And The Queens know that was going to happen when she suffered the foolish Red Carpet interview earlier?


When you see it like that, it makes sense.

Video award time. Remember, it was our votes that counted. If we voted.

Simon Cowell and Nicole out the yoghurt ads are presenting this one. Neither of them really seem to know what they're meant to be doing.

Here's the shortlist:
Adele – "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)"
Coldplay – "Hymn for the Weekend"
James Arthur – "Say You Won't Let Go"
Little Mix featuring Sean Paul – "Hair"
One Direction – "History"
ZAYN – "Pillowtalk"
Clean Bandit featuring Sean Paul & Anne-Marie – "Rockabye"
Jonas Blue featuring Dakota – "Fast Car"
Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna – "This Is What You Came For"
Tinie Tempah featuring Zara Larsson – "Girls Like"

The winner is... One Direction. Of course. It might be a surprise for those of us who assumed they'd already been broken up for parts.

Simon Cowell starts bellowing thank yous over the top, forgetting that he's meant to be awarding, not accepting. How did ITV get him to present in a category where there was a chance one of his puppety figures would win?

Ed Sheeran's here to sing us all a song now. As usual, he's so bland he's making James Blunt sound like Little Richard.

Stormzy's joined him. It's not really helped. Like putting horseradish sauce on a bit of luncheon meat.

There doesn't really feel like there's any forward motion to this show - it's not just they're building to Robbie Williams as if that was a big finish, but there's not really any energy. Even when one of the acts manages to spark life into the O2, it vanishes before they make it to the next ad break.


This is as credible as his claim he was making love by Wednesday.

Well, we're in the final stretch. Lets hold it together.

Last award is for Album of the year...

The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
David Bowie – Blackstar
Kano – Made in the Manor
Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate
Skepta – Konnichiwa

Oh, just when you thought it couldn't get worse, Noel Gallagher (a "stick it to the man rockstar" according to Emma) shuffles on to do the prize giving bit.

David Bowie wins it, and Duncan Jones comes to pick up his Dad's prize.

"He's always been there for people who think they're a little bit strange" says Duncan of his Dad. (And there for Craig David,too)

It's Emma's turn to fumble the switch from a heartfelt tribute to next award.

We're now moving to hearing why Robbie Williams won the third-ever Icon award. It would be a stretch at any time, but straight after a prize for an album fizzling with ideas which David Bowie recorded while he was dying, it's a hollow joke.

Look at him, sauntering along the catwalk with a smug grin, like British Music's own Nigel Farage.

"It's nearly over, you can nearly go home" says Williams, although the smarter attendees will already be halfway down the North Greenwich Station stairs by now.

"I love my life - I am powerful; I am beautiful; I am free" honks Williams. Half expecting him to end with "dial this number and ask me how".

Robbie Williams' last single peaked at 22. That's not really icon-esque.

His performance fizzles out and, oddly - for the first time in living memory - the Brits has under-run. So they're playing Shout Out To My Ex for the 16,223rd time this evening.

The standout moment, I think, was Duncan Jones tribute to his dad. The Wham bit was heartfelt, and a bit rough around the edges, and it's not often you see something so genuine at the Brits.

The lowlights are too numerous to revisit, but a double dose of Chris Martin stands out as inexplicably cruel.

But the worst thing is the shoddy treatment of the International Women prize. I know giving an award to Beyonce just throws shade over many of the other prize winners - like a glass of brandy surrounded by a table of shandies - but couldn't they at least have made a little more of it?

Thanks for reading. Back for Eurovision, if not before.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bono praises Pence and presumably not for a bet

No Rock And Roll Fun isn't - you might have noticed - as busy as it has been traditionally, mainly because who the hell has the energy to write about an ecosystem that has somehow evolved Rag N Bone Man and everyone takes him seriously?

But the blog remains open, and from time to time I'll be posting here when there's something that warrants it. And something that warrants it is... well, this:

Yes, that's long-time friend of the unpleasant Bono shaking warmly the hand of Mike Pence, enabler-in-chief to Donald Trump. This was during a meeting yesterday in Munich.

Bono also took the chance to praise Pence. He lauded Pence for "hitting the ground running", which is a bit like applauding bird flu for being especially virulent. Then tried to find a reason for touching the man that would play well to the liberal audience Bono believes still values him:
According to a pool report, the two men shared an exchange about the 2003 passage of the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief and its 2008 renewal, which Pence advocated for as an Indiana congressman.

"Twice on the House floor you defended that. That’s how we know you," Bono, who has been a vocal proponent of the fight against AIDS, told Pence.

"And we really appreciate it," he added.
It's true, Pence DID support the Emergency Plan back in 2008. However, this was the same Pence who - in 2000 - tried to derail the Ryan White Care Act:
“Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus,” read an LGBT section of Pence’s website, called Strengthening the American Family.
So had he changed his mind since then, and is he helping the fight against AIDS?

Well, no. He's making it worse, and singlehandedly helped create an HIV crisis in Indiana:
Pence first laid the groundwork for Indiana’s HIV outbreak as a congressman back in 2011, when the House passed his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. Then in 2013, Pence’s first year as governor of Indiana, Scott County’s one Planned Parenthood closed in the wake of public health spending cuts. Since that particular Planned Parenthood was also the county’s only HIV testing center, there was no longer a place for the county’s 24,000 residents to get tested.

Nearly 20 percent of Scott County residents live below the poverty line. Injection drug use there is a major problem, increasing the risk of HIV outbreak.

Fast-forward to 2015. Local health officials began to report HIV cases linked to intravenous prescription opioid use in Scott County. Scott County residents were sharing needles to inject their opioids, and nobody was getting tested.

The situation quickly spiraled out of control. At the height of the outbreak, 20 new cases of HIV were being diagnosed each week, reaching a total of nearly 200 cases by the time the outbreak was finally under control.
Maybe if Bono had a spine, or perhaps didn't need to be loved so much, he might have mentioned this.

Maybe if Bono had a spine, he'd have drawn the link between the defunding of sexual health providers in Indiana, and the Trump-Pence White House's first executive order. That's the one which pulls funding from any organisation working overseas which mentions abortions as an option.

The executive order was restoring an older, Bush-era rule. And how did that work out?
Implementation of the global gag rule went well beyond abortion to effectively limit all discussions of family planning, including condom use to prevent HIV infection and multiyear spacing of pregnancies to avoid maternal deaths. Organizations as diverse as the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund and Family Health International lost millions of dollars in support from the US government during the years the gag rule was enforced.
Bono - who is such a useful idiot he's more the Swiss Army Knife of Idiots - is shaking the hand of a man who has created an HIV crisis in his home state, and is part of a White House that's making rules that will stop condom use and education overseas, and praising him as a great warrior in the fight against HIV.

After this meeting, Bono moved on to take a selfie with Famine, noting that the famous Horseman had really "cut through and found a way to persuade people to eat up their leftovers."