By Tom Bishop
BBC News entertainment reporter
US band Scissor Sisters took three prizes at this year's Brit Awards in a suitably flamboyant, colourful and at times breathtaking ceremony.
Jamelia and Lemar performed a surprisingly slinky Addicted To Love
They made their entrance bursting out of eggs laid by a giant pink chicken and the fabulous freakshow had begun.
We would see Green Day engulfed by flames, Franz Ferdinand chased by giant arrows and dozens of Japanese girls emerging from behind toadstools.
Is this any way for a 25-year-old institution to present itself?
Maybe the Brits has learned that it takes such showy theatre to take our minds off the fact that its Earl's Court home is really an aircraft hangar disguised as a wedding venue.
As students from the Brits School are whipped into a frenzy in the pit in front of the stage, the VIP motors of the music industry spend most of the night seated and undistracted by proceedings.
They missed a three-and-a-half hour show filled with enough genuine showmanship to keep blatant back-slapping to a minimum.
No sooner had Scissor Sisters left the stage, trailing Jim Henson's dancing melons and eggs with legs behind them, than comics Matt Lucas and David Walliams appeared dressed as ex-Take That stars Gary Barlow and Howard Donald.
Franz Ferdinand gave an electrifying run-through of Take Me Out against a stark backdrop of Saul Bass-inspired red, white and black arrows.
The heat from Green Day's rendition of American Idiot singed a few eyebrows as their projected flames turned into the real thing thanks to six onstage flame-throwers.
Joss Stone effortlessly upstaged Robbie Williams on Angels
Jamelia and Lemar teamed up for a surprisingly slinky version of Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love and even Joss Stone's tried-and-tested recruitment of a gospel choir proved effective on Right To Be Wrong.
But US singer Gwen Stefani has to take the prize for most mind-bending performance of the night.
Having collected her international female award with her trademark entourage of four Japanese girls dressed as kinky maids, she recreated What You Waiting For's Alice in Wonderland video onstage.
As a giant deck of cards fell behind her, Stefani jerked her way through the song disguised as a frizz-haired Alice accompanied by more, then more, then even more Japanese dancers.
The price of such priceless pop moments was that old stalwarts suddenly found themselves out of their depth.
Robbie Williams shuffled his way through newly-crowned best song Angels, allowing the audience to sing half of it and Joss Stone to invigorate what was left.
Host Chris Evans stuck to a predictable script, the only surprise coming when he strolled over to ex-wife Billie Piper who inexplicably had a front-row seat with Paul Gascoigne.
Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield's smart clobber failed to add sparkle to their unimaginative cover of Ain't Nobody, and The Streets' live version of Dry Your Eyes mangled the original.
However The Streets star Mike Skinner redeemed himself with the night's only two acts of rebellion - dropping his beer bottle on stage and refusing to leave the toilet to collect his male artist award.
Eminem added his own slice of mischief by accepting his international male award on film, speaking from behind a picture of a woman's face.
"Sorry I couldn't be there but I look like this now," he said. "There's been a lot of scandal so they told me to stay home."
A clip of his video Mosh, which is critical of President Bush, was screened, but cut short without explanation.
So despite being scandal-free and with few surprises, this year's ceremony was the most spirited and visually spectacular in recent memory.
After a night of loud and colourful spectacle, the Brits seems to be entering its 26th year in very rude health.