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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 22:51 GMT
Brits get glitz but few surprises
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff at the Brit Awards

Rock heroes The Darkness walked away with three prizes at this year's Brit Awards in London on Tuesday at a glittering but predictable ceremony.

The Darkness' Justin Hawkins at the Brit Awards
The Darkness' Justin Hawkins was lifted to the top of a podium
In 20 years, our children will see footage of The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins on stage in his sparkling catsuit and hairy mane, surrounded by giant unicorns, and ask: "Why?"

But for now, their feelgood flamboyance works - and they were the stars of the show at Earl's Court.

It was not a huge surprise when they won their third award of the night, for best British album - pushing their tally past Dido, Busted and Justin Timberlake.

Organisers made them perform last - in the slot usually taken by the lifetime achievement winners - because of the excitement they created in the last 12 months.

They got the biggest cheer of the night when they appeared to play I Believe in a Thing Called Love, culminating in Hawkins being lifted to the top of a tower on stage.

Beyonce at the Brit Awards
Beyonce gave the night's raunchiest performance
But the hysteria surrounding them in the last year may have something to do with the lack of any other truly exciting new British stars.

Daniel Bedingfield and Dido's awards were nothing if not safe, and one of the year's true innovators - Dizzee Rascal - went home empty-handed despite three nominations.

The category he had the biggest chance in, best British urban artist, went to Lemar - a fine musician, but one who will always be the runner-up from Fame Academy.

'Booze is back!'

The Brits usually rely on bad behaviour for the surprises - not the choice of winners.

This year, they brought alcohol back into the auditorium after being criticised for a boring show last time.

Introducing Tuesday's ceremony, host Cat Deeley rode a giant champagne bottle proclaiming: "Booze is back! Rock and roll is back!"

OutKast at the Brit Awards
OutKast's Andre 3000 and backing singers dressed in skeleton suits
The atmosphere was a bit more spontaneous - but there were still no slurred speeches, anti-war rants, stage invasions or attacks on politicians.

The most controversial bits were Chris Moyles calling DJ Neil Fox "fat" and a dancer shaking his Union Jack boxer shorts at Beyonce Knowles during her performance.

It was a very good job there was no wardrobe malfunction.

Headlines can always be guaranteed for a raunchy performance - and Beyonce's booty is likely to be on the front pages on Wednesday, just as Kylie's derriere gained legendary status after the 2002 ceremony.

Beyonce relay

Performing her hit Crazy in Love, her skirt was small enough to begin with. But photographers in the pit got an even better view when it got blown about by a strategically-placed fan.

She was the biggest of all the international stars present - and her relay performance with OutKast was among the other highlights.

Duran Duran at Brit Awards
Duran Duran were recognised 23 years after their first hit
Performing in front of four American Cadillacs, OutKast's Andre 3000 and backing singers - all wearing skeleton suits - were hugely impressive with their landmark hip-hop single Hey Ya!

But as they scarpered from the stage, two Cadillacs turned over and Beyonce appeared between them, doing her trademark power wiggle down the stairs on the stage.

But it had been billed as a collaboration and it would have been double the fun to see OutKast and Beyonce - arguably the US's hottest stars - sharing the stage for more than a few seconds.

Another huge cheer came for Duran Duran, who received the lifetime achievement award and shamed many young performers up by reminding us that pop and rock stars can be credible without being comical.

Both The Darkness and Busted produce a cartoonish blend of rock and pop in different ways - but Duran Duran played universal rock that was serious and simply great.


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