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Old 17-Feb-2011
Top of the pops

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It may only take a minute to fall in love, but to reach the zenith of your artistic career can take a while longer, as Take That have discovered.

After 17 No 1 hits, pop world domination, an acrimonious split and a dewy-eyed reunion, the phenomenally successful boy-turned-manband were finally crowned best British group at the Brit awards, 21 years after their first performance on the cheesy late-night TV show The Hitman Her.

Young pretender Tinie Tempah may have taken home more awards the rapper received statuettes for both British breakthrough act and best single for the infectious Pass Out but the night belonged to the veteran band.

It was most certainly the campest, and possibly the most spectacular, opening to any Brit awards, the boys took to the stage flanked by Take That soldiers, who by the end of the performance were only in their underwear.

The revamped Brits were styled as a music-centric event rather than the bacchanalian back-patting exercise of the past. And there was evidence that the 1,000-strong voting academy, which this year included music performers for the first time as well as the usual promoters, producers, publishers and retailers, wanted to celebrate "quality" music.

They were not left wanting. A virtuoso performance by Adele of her song Someone Like You entranced and enchanted the arena in equal measure before, in perhaps the most telling illustration of the change, folk singer-songwriter Laura Marling accepted the award for best British female solo artist.

While her precisely written and haunting album I Speak Because I Can received critical acclaim, it peaked at No 4 in the charts and she has remained under the mainstream radar.

Her victory is just the sort of left-of-centre award that the new Brits chairman David Joseph was looking for when he overhauled the voting academy.

Mass appeal

The same, too, could be said for folk band Mumford Sons, who have proved that banjos are no barriers to mass appeal, and took home the most coveted award of the night, the best British album, for their debut release Sigh No More.

But the revamp could not deflect from the crowning of Take That, the peak of an extraordinary 12 months in which the group's most recent album, Progress, became the fastest-selling of the decade with first-day sales of more than 235,000, the highest since Oasis released Be Here Now in 1997.

Take That's accompanying tour the biggest in UK history sold out in minutes, and promises to be the most spectacular that "Thatters", as their fans are known, have ever seen.

The band split amid accusations, insults and alcoholism in 1995. Robbie Williams, ever the bad boy of the group, went on to achieve huge success as a solo act and has won more Brit awards than any other artist. His debut album, Life Thru a Lens, went straight to No 1, and hits such as Angels lodged themselves firmly in the karaoke canon.

But after Williams's career hit the buffers, the newly-reformed four-piece Take That went on to have success without him with The Ultimate tour in 2006, and The Circus album and tour in 2008.

After winning the award for best group, Mark Owen tear-jearkingly turned to Williams. "Rob, thanks for coming back mate," he said over the screams. Williams response was fittingly a throw back to the '90s, as he shouted "shabba!" into the mike.

Gary Barlow, the main songwriter of the band, recently turned 40, joining Jason Orange who is the same age, and Howard Donald, 42, in the realm of fortysomethings. Williams and Owen are not far behind at 37 and 39.


Take That's award the first time they have been crowned best British band despite three previous nominations comes eight months after Williams announced he was rejoining the band.

Plan B, real name Ben Drew, whose concept album The Defamation Of Strick And Banks went to No 1 in the UK, was named best British male solo artist for his blend of rap-punctuated soul, while Jessie J, who has exploded on to the pop scene in 2011, going to No 1 with Price Tag this month, took home the prize for best newcomer.

Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire continued their good run, winning best international group and best international album, after taking home a Grammy on Sunday for album of the year for The Suburbs.

Accepting the awards the band paid tribute to the British bands that had changed their lives. "From New Order to David Bowie, The Clash, Culture Club, Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Thank you Britain, thank you so much."

American rapper Cee Lo Green, singer of the hugely popular, if not charmingly titled, [Expletive] You (or Forget You, depending on your radio station), took home the award for best international male solo artist while Rihanna won best international female solo artist.

The Brits may have been all about the music, but proof that the awards still enjoy a little unadulterated bubble-gum pop came in the perfectly coiffed form of the teen idol Justin Bieber, who took home the award for best international breakthrough act.


* British male solo artist : Plan B
* British female solo artist: Laura Marling
* British breakthrough act: Tinie Tempah British group:Take That
* British single: Pass Out by Tinie Tempah
* MasterCard British album of the year: Sigh No More by Mumford Sons
* International male solo artist: Cee Lo Green
* International female solo artist: Rihanna
* International breakthrough act: Justin Bieber
* International group: Arcade Fire
* International album: The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
* Critics' Choice: Jessie J

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