Oh joy. The MTV Awards, European franchise. After this year’s dull VMAs and last year’s EMA debacle in Liverpool, we settled down last night heavy of heart and cynical of outlook. Let’s just get the next two and a half hours (TWO AND A HALF HOURS!) out the way and go back to our lives. Staged this year in Berlin – home to the first ever European awards and also a not insignificant moment in world history twenty years ago – the prospect of another crass US invasion was almost too much to bear.
But what’s this? Green Day opening the show with a raging two song set that actually sets the pulses racing? Well yes. As we have pointed out here, the band’s live show is still a case of annoying enthusiasm over their undisputed content but this is perfect for the occasion, a raging cocktail of pyrotechnics and punk rock that actually comes across the airwaves as they combine the power of their VMAs performance with a decent song. Billie Joe is at the audience’s throat from the start, going on a carefully planned walkabout before a bouncer gives him a shove up the jacksie back onto stage and they follow it up with a ragged, accordion led version of -Minority’ that sounds more like the Levellers than ever. Wow.
Do we know our enemy? Yes we do and here she comes in her underwear. Can someone please explain the Katy Perry thing to us? Ok as a pop star she has an appeal to more than a few people, but why allow her to host these things…again? So we get the skimpy outfits(including a Russell Brand inspired West Ham kit), the sexual innuendos and not a lot else. Her heart doesn’t really seem in it which is handy as neither is ours. All of which reminds us that this is still a TV Awards show and that it will have its awful moments. Thankfully the overt Americanism of Liverpool is largely gone (Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz – last seen on the Dog Whisperer emo fans – presents backstage in an agreeably crap manner) replaced by some genuinely bizarre European moments. There’s a lot of -and you are?’ presenters, Joss Stone totters on with the boxer Vladimir Klitschko, David Hasslehoff is greeted like a freedom fighting hero (only, surely, in Germany…) and Jean Reno proves himself utterly unable to whip a teenage audience into a frenzy. And, yet again, we must ask – who the fuck are Tokio Hotel?
Generally though, the evening is rather good. Beyonce, U2 and Jay Z all make short, eloquent speeches, while Lady Gaga and Eminem don’t show up. The awards seem to go to the right people,which means Kings Of Leon don’t win anything, although the rundown of European winners shows that it must be time that Ireland got its own category rather than having Pixie Lott forced upon us. Even the madness of some Turkish band winning best European act reminds us of the continent’s melting pot make-up. And who would have predicted Placebo getting best alternative act, especially since Brian now looks like Caroline Quentin from Men Behaving Badly?
Best of all there are some really good, great even, performances. Beyonce and Shakira are oddly ineffectual, both choosing weak songs that are easily overshadowed by the productions. The big set piece of the night is U2 live from the Brandenburg Gate. As Edge had pointed out earlier, Berlin was the place where the band had rediscovered themselves and they responded with a beautiful performance of the song that brought them together, -One’. OK, so they threw in something new and ropey but you couldn’t help but be impressed.
The other big showing comes from Jay-Z. If you though his VMA take on -Empire State Of Mind’ was good then this was really something, even without the assistance of Alicia Keys. His band are great, Jay is great and this might just be one of the best awards performances ever. Hell even the Foo Fighters were pretty good.
If the show starts to drift after that, well it doesn’t really matter. We’ve had more than we expected, even if Leona Lewis is a real disappointment. The unavoidable Michael Jackson tribute, though, is actually well done – displaying genuine affection and humour and avoiding mawkish sentimentality, the Jonas Brothers intro aside. Just what is going on here? Who are you and what have you done with the MTV Awards?
It all finishes with something rather special. Back to the Brandenburg Gate we go for one more defining moment, the night’s two great stars together. If you thought the idea of Jay-Z rapping over -Sunday Bloody Sunday’ was a recipe for disaster well it is bizarre alright but it seriously works. Even Bono gets a bit overexcited, shouting in the house a lot and even trying to match him in the rapping stakes. He fails of course, but it’s a ludicrous, glorious, heroic failure and totally in keeping with the night itself. Berlin, the city that once saved U2, may have done the same for the MTV Awards. Who’d have thought it?