JUST AN OBSERVATION
Friday 24th February
So that was the Brits then, supposedly showcasing ‘The very best in British music’ or was it a two hour MasterCard advert interrupted by other adverts and interspersed with some decidedly-at best- average musical interludes? From a nation which has produced groundbreaking acts such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bowie, The Sex Pistols, The Clash , Kate Bush, The Smiths, Underworld, Radiohead and PJ Harvey then surely the likes of Ed Sheeran and Butlins Redcoat Olly Murs are a step backwards in an industry which insists it is forward looking and streaming the zeitgeist. This was hard to believe after watching Tuesday night’s shambolic fiasco of an awards ceremony-I only watched half as the minute Olly Murs came on with his Seaside Special routine, a performance as flat as his vocals, I could not take anymore- which was a national embarrassment and a sorry indictment on the state of British music.
There is good music out there and of the aforementioned list of innovators both Kate Bush and PJ Harvey received nominations but these were only a cursory nod of recognition and there was never any way they were going to win positioned, as they were, against the current industry cash cow Adele. Apparently much furore was made concerning her acceptance speech being cut short but she had three wins and a live performance so her screen time was hardly minimal and thus had ample opportunity to thank everyone necessary without feeling too hard done by. Interrupted by James Corden-not sure why he was assigned this role as he is probably the most irritating man on TV and the smug ,perfect example of someone getting lucky- she gave the finger to the ‘suits’ and caused a little bit of limp controversy which was really quite yawnsville. Seeing later that her speech was cut short for Damon Albarn’s eleven minute mockney ‘alright guvnor’ ramblings, the irritation which accompanied her being edited made more sense however.
This was followed by a disappointing performance by Blur which unfortunately was still head and shoulders above the bland drivel churned out by the other guests. Florence and her Machine wailed hysterically whilst resembling the Good Life’s Margo Leadbetter and Noel Fielding in drag and obviously engaged in a competition with Rihanna in-as one observer wryly noted- as to who could sound more like a cat being fisted. Bruno Mars churned out the blandest slop imaginable-apart from Olly Murs of course, though it was a close-run thing- and Ed Sheeran is just totally forgettable, maudlin and twee.
Adele won best album and turned in a stunningly polished performance, as she always does, but it is starting to feel a little tired. Her album 21 is a good, well conceived record but it is more the stuff of background noise at dinner parties than anything else. There is nothing innovative or groundbreaking about the record and the only thing it is likely to inspire are a hundred Dancing on Ice routines.
Mind you the Brits were hardly likely to take flight opening as they did with Coldplay-who have assisted another innovator Brian Eno in sullying an otherwise,U2 aside, almost perfect career- who always make me feel as if I have been robbed of five minutes of my life. It came as quite a shock then to discover on last nights Dispatches concerning online ticket rip-off companies that some people are prepared to spend over two grand to see them live as I am more likely to spend that amount to NOT see them live. The Dispatches documentary was fascinating however showing how secondary ticket sites-in this instance Viagogo was the prime target though there are others- are indulging in despicable practices in ripping off music fans. Seemingly involved in allocation deals many tickets are never actually available to the public at the price advertised and instead are on sale almost instantaneously at vastly inflated prices. Add to this the practice of buying up as many tickets as possible with multiple credit cards to sell on at huge profits and a highly immoral system is at work. Dispatches exposed this and the smug self satisfied attitude of those behind it.
Personally I have never been a fan of large, impersonal stadium gigs so have never actually been ripped off but many of the original prices always seemed excessively high without quadrupling them-at least in some cases- to line the pockets of an essentially corrupt business which in some way is doing its own bit in destroying what little integrity still exists of an already faltering music industry. I don’t understand the point of spending hundreds of pounds to stand outside or in an aircraft hangar sized building to watch a band half a mile away on a video screen so it could be argued anyone who is prepared to part with their hard earned cash simply to imbue themselves with some kudos or delusional credibility is simply getting what they deserve. There are some genuine fans that having queued or saved up are also being ripped off and it is them I feel pity for. The programme was well executed- even if they did make the faux pas of describing a Will Young enthusiast as a ‘music fan’- and exposed those behind the scams so it will be interesting to see what action is taken.
This must be the week of disappointing awards ceremonies as the Oscars also take place this Sunday and as far as I can see several of the years best films have been neglected-Drive and Shame are two unforgivable omissions from all categories- and it is now down to The Artist and The Help to battle it out. My money is on The Artist as although it is French –remember the vehement anti-French sentiment of the last Sex and the City episode after France failed to back the US entering Iraq- it pays homage to a golden era of Hollywood. The only likely competition it is likely to face is the Help which is a much more patriotic film of the sort beloved of the Academy. The Descendants, War Horse and especially Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are mere also-rans padding out the category. Meryl Streep is not such a dead cert for best actress as she was in the Baftas as she plays a British icon which does not hold the same amount of fascination-and hatred- for an American audience as for a British one. The best actor is similarly open though it will probably go to Jean DuJardin even if Brad Pitt gives the best performance in Moneyball and George Clooney’s overrated but understated portrayal in the Descendants is also up there with the favourites. The whole thing will probably be less disappointing than the Brits and there is always some comfort to be gained from your personal favourite not winning as this means it will never be relegated to the overly populist ranks and the sense of being cheated helps it retain some kudos.
Awards ceremonies apart from being a pat on the back from your own industry are essentially guides for people who have little instinct and taste of their own and thus have to be guided into making a decision as to what to see and listen to. Very rarely have I been influenced to investigate something merely because it has won an award and generally the consensus is once something has reached that level of acceptance it is borne of the mainstream and lost its edge. It is always good to see who turns up looking a state though having been convinced by a team of stylists that something totally ridiculous is somehow absolutely fabulous.
This weekend sees another night at the always interesting Neu Reekie and the guest list this time seems as impressive as the last one so that is something to look forward to even if no-one takes home any awards. Not much else going on this weekend in this city with it’s ever rapidly dwindling decent venues although I believe Rugby season is upon us which along with the stag and hen parties merely provides yet another excuse to avoid the city centre on a Saturday night.