BBC Music Awards 2016 at ExCel London
Last night was the night of the (fairly) glamorous BBC Music Awards. After the O2 Arena, the ExCel centre is possibly the most soulless of London venues to enjoy live music. But the BBC did an impressive job of sprucing the place up to create a stunning stage setup and light show befitting the pomp of the event.
Like a reincarnation of the much-loved Top of the Pops, there was a high-profile line-up of music mainstream A-Listers. But the BBC were perhaps making up for the fact that the advertised award element was only a minor part of the evening’s proceedings, handing out a scant five awards to musicians who predominantly weren’t present. Coldplay accepted artist of the year by video; Adele double dropped with album and song of the year with thank-yous from LA read out by Robbie Williams and Fearne Cotton; Izzy Bizu was there to accept BBC Introducing Artist of the Year and The 1975 won Live Lounge Performance of the Year for their unexpected cover of Justin Bieber’s Sorry. Headed up by the most down-to-earth of their big name presenters, Claudia Winkleman (Strictly Come Dancing), Fearne Cotton (Radio 1) and with Gemma Cairney (Radio 1) handling backstage, the linking chatter was banterous and charming, if the efforts to capture some non-existent behind-the-scenes debauchery a little strained.
Kicking off with feel-good The Sound from The 1975, there were some stunning vocal performances from Emeli Sandé, backed up by gospel-style singers on Breathing Underwater, a spine-tingling 7 Years from the disarmingly humble Dane, Lukas Graham, and a star-quality, gold-suited John Legend delivered the double smash hit All of Me/Love Me Now. Kaiser Chiefs gave a solid performance with Hole in My Soul. But it was really a night of comebacks, with Craig David and Robbie Williams winning over the audience with the stage presence and charm that soared them to fame in their heydey – Craig David’s oldskool Re-rewind blending into earnest new song Ain’t Given Up, his voice and energy sounding as fresh as ever, and Robbie Williams’s uber-poppy but fun track Sensational leaving the audience on a high.
Set up more as a review and celebration of the tumultuous but creatively potent year of 2016, there were some heartfelt dedications to the loss of some music greats – David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen to name but a few – and a glimpse of the key role the BBC plays in finding and supporting great talent – particularly in their now renowned Radio 1 Live Lounge and BBC Introducing Artist of the Year awards. But what seemed to be lacking was a true sense of the crucial space in the music scene the corporation occupies through its broadcasting outlets. And some rather uninspired choreography and costuming almost let down the epic vocals, notably from newcomer Izzy Bizu, whose unique use of her voice shone on White Tiger in spite of some awkward swaying in a skimpy leather skirt and sheer top, and thankfully siren Zara Larsson’s soaring Lush Life/I Would Like was enough to distract from her bubblegum pop hotpants and crop-top. The less said about Robbie Williams’s S&M-styled backing dancers the better….
It was an enjoyable evening, packed full of talent, but the BBC could have better embraced the admittedly overdone art of award-giving (this was no Brits) and, more importantly, better reflected their innovative, inclusive and eclectic treatment of music and artistic talent as an institution.
For further information about BBC Music Awards visit here.
Watch the video for The Sound here: