Thursday, February 20, 2003

One year ago tomorrow [or today, if you're reading this on Friday] I sat in front of the telly with a bottle of Alsatian pinot gris, watching the Brit Awards. This year, I stuck with the Alsace, choosing a lovely gew├╝rztraminer [notes of lychee, rose petals and glycerine, since you ask].

There is much hype this year about how the show is live for the first time since the infamous Sam Fox/Mick Fleetwood debacle. No, it isn't. It is recorded several hours before it is broadcast - the BBC News site quotes the winners' acceptance speeches several hours before transmission. Having said that, it does have a far more immediate, involving feel this year. OK, it does feel like a bigger budget Pop Idol - the ubiquitous Davina McCall prowls the aisles, and the pop awards are cluttered with reality TV show winners and runners-up.

A panning shot of the front rows of the audience reveals many of the night's winners and performers: Liberty X [sitting next to a proprietorial Richard Branson], Gareth, Will, Coldplay, Tiffany.

It's time to get the party started. It's Punk-Pink - spiky performance, spiky hair, looking decidedly chunky. I do hope for her sake she's pregnant.

Liberty X win something, beating Will, Gareth, and Gareth again, in a category which was voted for by the public. Norah Jones wins something in a category which clearly wasn't.

Blue perform. The gorgeous Simon sports an afro, rockin' that Lenny Kravitz vibe (or was that Bobby from Boney M?) The lads foolishly choose a new song that no-one knows, trying to stir up some interest with pyrotechnics and a half-hearted snatch of "One Love". The audience remembers 5ive and is distinctly unimpressed. Fucking amazing set design, though.

A frisson runs round the room [well, my room, anyway] as Robin Gibb is called on to present an award. Will he rip Graham Norton's head off live on national telly? Sadly, no.

"Now, for these next two presenters," says Davina, "imagine you've had a really bad curry." Cue ring-stinglingly shit humour from Matt Lucas and someone else pretending to be Charlotte Church and Eminem.

"Now it's breast British male," says Davina. "Ooh, sorry, I meant best." No, dear, you meant breast. Cue Robbie Williams making a tit of himself, dialling in another acceptance speech. Offscreen, I imagine, nubile handmaidens massage beer into his pampered rump.

I swear I hear Davina introduce Denise Van Outen with the following sentence "She's most famous for her recipe for sausages inside her with lemon thyme".

Ooh! And then it's time for Justin Timberlake. I get so excited I knock my bottle of wine over, so miss the first part of his act while I suck wine out the carpet. Anyway, our Just manages to look gorgeous despite wearing the white trackpants and hooded top last seen on the kid wot nicked your mobile. And then he and Kylie Minogue do a mercifully brief rendition of Blondie's "Rapture". Kylie looks a million dollars - literally: glossy, hard, enamelled. But she's a trouper at heart and her rap bit is more Listen With Mother: "Are You Sitting Comfortably? Good, Let's Rap With Auntie Kylie". Justin's falsetto bit is just, "Oh, no, dear, don't!"

The auditorium is looking half-empty, with whole tranches of empty seats. Given this year's policy of no alcohol inside the venue, the stars have no doubt gone off to the bar.

I've had just about enough by now, and when David Gray starts wailing "Meet me on the other side; I'll see you on the other side", I take his advice and switch to the BBC for the Cherie Blair / Carole Caplin / Peter "Conman" Foster documentary. Even dodgier hairstyles and less believable sanctimonious speeches. Ah, the Brits.

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