Brit awards: Verdict on the 'new' show

By Michael Osborn
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Image caption, Take That opened the first Brits ceremony at London's O2 arena

The Brit awards, held at London's O2 arena for the first time, came with the promise of a revamped ceremony.

In a novel move, reporters were invited to join musical talent and the industry's great and good at tables on the floor of the venue, close to all the action of the big night.

From the performances to the acceptance speeches and beyond, how did the "new" Brits shape up?

The presenter

Comic actor James Corden said before the show that his style would be "warm and sensitive" and nothing like Ricky Gervais's acerbic performance at the Golden Globes.

Image caption, Corden (l) was charged with hosting the first Brits at its new venue

He was in slick, smartly-dressed and professional mode even when the cameras were not turned on him, saying the event was "all about the music".

The only running gag he indulged in during the show was at the expense of teen singer and Brit winner Justin Bieber. Otherwise the funny man was absent.

The ceremony may have succeeded in shaking off the ghosts of some of its more embarrassing hosts of years gone by. But the feeling on the floor was that Corden was too well-oiled and lacked spark.

The performances

Image caption, The riot police returned during Plan B's performance

Best British group winners Take That got the show off to a spectacular start with a performance featuring riot police and ending with a burst of semi-nakedness.

Rihanna's colourful medley of songs, meanwhile, was decidedly tame compared to her recent performance on The X Factor.

The riot squad returned for Plan B's moment in the spotlight and ended with a man on fire.

While the O2 has ample capacity for pyrotechnics and casts of thousands in Brit performances, the simplicity of Adele's song - just a flawless live vocal accompanied by piano - had guests on their feet in appreciation.

The speeches

Acceptance speeches are where awards ceremonies broadcast live on television can come apart.

But nothing seemed to veer off script at this event - apart from a very pregnant pause when Tinie Tempah came to accept his second gong.

Image caption, Rihanna was delighted to be named international female solo artist

Take That's Mark Owen publicly thanked his "mate" Robbie Williams for rejoining the band, while unexpected best British female winner Laura Marling felt the need to introduce herself to the hall.

Global superstar Rihanna seemed genuinely thrilled to win her award, and proclaimed: "It doesn't get much better than the Brits".

All the winners seemed popular with the crowd, though a small element of the audience booed when Justin Bieber took best international breakthrough.

At the podium this year, nobody let slip an expletive or got into a ruck, while there certainly wasn't a repeat of Helena Bonham Carter's rambling yet endearing Baftas speech on Sunday.

The revamped ceremony

This year's organisers decided to dump the lifetime achievement award category and give prime position to best album of the year, making it the final and climactic Brit award to be announced at the ceremony.

Take That or Tinie Tempah were heavily tipped to walk off with the honour, so there was surprise around the floor when folk rocksters Mumford and Sons were announced as the winners.

Whether it was the most significant win of the night is another matter.

The venue

The O2 arena has taken over from Earls Court as the spiritual home of the Brits. The cavernous venue can fit in 125 tables for floor guests and acres of seating for thousands of other spectators, stretching up into the roof. Around 16,000 people were there to see the ceremony.

Performances and the business of handing out awards took place on the music venue's showcase stage, with a lengthy catwalk stage creating extra reach for those outlandish performances.

The sound quality in the hall was great, the atmosphere electric. It's a fair bet the Brits will become a regular fixture here in years to come.

The verdict

The refreshed Brits was a slick, sophisticated and very polished product that had practically none of the headline-grabbing gaffes and antics of the past.

The live performances matched the size of its new home, while the awards themselves had just a couple of surprises thrown into the mix.

Music was the toast of the night at the new show - but there was some yearning for the rougher edges of the past.

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