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Brit Awards Clock Up 25 Years

- Franz Ferdinand among favourites for prizes

EARLS COURT hosts the annual Brit Awards tonight, with Mercury Prize winners Franz Ferdinand again in the running to scoop major honours.

Franz Ferdinand are one of a number of acts asked to perform live at the event. Others include Robbie Williams, Scissor Sisters and The Streets. Williams's song Angels is in the running for a special award for the best song of the last 25 years, which is how long the Brit Awards have been around. Rivals for the award are Leave Right Now (by Will Young), Love Will Tear Us (Joy Division), We Are The Champions (Queen) and Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush).

Over the years, the Brits have occasionally hit the headlines for odd reasons, such as the year the event was hosted by Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood when autocue problems caused much hilarity and the year a Michael Jackson performance was interrupted by Jarvis Cocker baring his bum. This year, Babyshambles's singer Pete Doherty has claimed he plans to disrupt the awards.

Mercury Prize Goes to Franz Ferdinand
- Scottish art-rockers see off London bid

FRANZ FERDINAND took the Mercury Music Prize at a star-studded award ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel last night.

The venue was about the only London winner as Glasgow-based indie-rockers Franz Ferdinand lived up to their favourites billing by seeing off the double London challenge represented by Amy Winehouse and Ty.

"The Glasgow music scene has always been fantastic, it just seems nowadays people have caught up with the fact," said FF singer Alex Kapranos.

At that line, some older music heads were taken back two decades or more to when 'The Sound of Young Scotland' in the form of groups like Orange Juice and Josef K briefly ruled the roost and there is some sound-connection between those bands and Franz Ferdinand.

Kapranos, though, was quick to cite the influence of Roxy Music and to stress the value of the latest wave of British talent. "It's fantastic the state of UK music," he said. "We are certainly surrounded by an unending stream of fantastic bands. We feel honoured to be among them."

The Rack Makes Them Bigger
- Madonna's bust receives increased spiritual guidance from old-school machine

In her continued quest for strange exercise and health methodology, Madonna's latest project brings her a step closer to medieval torture, via the Gyrotonic Expansion System.  According to the Daily Star, the machine has not only toned her muscles; it has also increased her bust size.

The 'Rack', as it is known, is a wooden structure attached by pulleys and wires that was developed in the 80's by ballet dancer Juliu Horvath in order to combine 'spiritual awareness' with dance-appropriate exercise.

Madonna's ninety minute sessions at a studio in St. John's Wood have likely been to keep her in shape for her ongoing Reinvention tour, which hit Earl's Court last night.  The trail of shows will continue on Sunday and Monday at Wembley Arena, with tickets for those and added shows at Wembley Arena on the 25th and 26th still available.

Pet Shop Boys Bring Battle to Trafalgar
- Free film-music concert at square for early autumn

TRAFALGAR Square is to be the site for the world premiere of new film sound track music composed by the Pet Shop Boys. The electronic music duo - most famous for 80s hit West End Girls - have written a new score for legendary Russian silent movie Battleship Potemkin, directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

"It's wonderful to be given the opportunity to write a complete soundtrack to this classic film and then to perform it as a free concert in the heart of London," said Pet Shop Boys singer Neil Tennant. Battleship Potemkin is regarded by film buffs as one of the most important movies of all time in its powerful use of 'montage' - the juxtaposition of successive images to create meaning and emotional response.

The film concerns a revolt by sailors on the eponymous warship in 1904, which, by the time the film was made in 1925, had become a symbol of revolutionary action. As well as its connections with naval matters - the Battle of Trafalgar itself - Trafalgar Square has long been one of the main sites in London for political demonstrations and it is this connection which helped make it the space of choice for the Pet Shop Boys premiere.

"Trafalgar Square is the place for re-imagining the past in terms of the needs of the present," said Philip Dodd, director of the ICA, which is organising the event. Tennant and partner Chris Lowe will be joined in the square on the 12th of September by the Dresden Sinfoniker.

Orbital go out on a high
- The masters of electronic twiddling return briefly to the live arena, after the brothers Hartnoll announce their impending disintegration

Orbital will be staging the first of two final gigs at Brixton Academy tonight. The band best known for their anthemic dance hits are hanging up their laptops, but not without a final farewell.

For two nights only, fans are treated to six hours of dance music with the Hartnoll brothers headlining the set. The line-up also includes fellow comrades Plaid, Pandit-G of Asian Dub Foundation, Instrumental, Rennie Pilgrim and Curfew.

Orbital who have been on the music scene for some 15 years now, started out with the explosion of acid house on the horizon, and are widely credited with having shaped the direction of electronic music over the last decade.

Michael Turns Up Nose at Wham! Cheese
- But self-declared 'snob' ready to give show the go-ahead

GEORGE MICHAEL has damned as "cheesy" a project to make a musical based on his former group, Wham!

"The only reason we got away with the pastiche of [those songs] is because they were done with so much conviction and big hair and big teeth, and genuine fun and passion," Michael said.

"But the truth is that done on stage there will be no charm and you'll be left with a lot of cheese, so I'm torn. Am I being too much of a snob? I would literally have to avoid the premiere."

Despite Michael's reservations, it is thought likely he and former Wham! partner Andrew Ridgely, will give the go-ahead to the venture, partly due to the success of other pop-band musicals such as House of Fun (based on Madness songs), Mamma Mia! (Abba) and Tonight's The Night (Rod Stewart).

"I know that a certain generation of people would love it," Michael said, and that thought may be enough to let the singer, whose new album was well received this month, allow the musical to progress.

Rod Stewart to lead Torch Concert
- London celebrates Olympic Torch Relay with music on The Mall

As well as playing host to the Olympic Torch Relay, London will be packing in the crowds on June 26th for a musical celebration to mark the event. Rod Stewart will be headlining proceedings with a whole host of other big names on the day. Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne will be gracing the stage as will 'The Godfather of Soul' - James Brown. More recent acts include the likes of Jamelia, McFly, Will Young and Emma Bunton.

The concert is free with tickets being allocated by ballot. For your chance to attend you can apply by telephone. Over 70,000 tickets will be allocated by ballot and will be mailed out to the lucky winners by June 21st 2004.

Telephone Hotline - 090 11 12 13 14

(The hotline is open until noon Wednesday 9 June 2004. All calls are charged at local rate within the UK and cost a maximum of 25p. Charges may differ for mobile phones.)

Queen Welcomes Kinks Legend
- Davies at Buckingham Palace to receive award

RAY DAVIES, one of the great names in London rock and pop music, is to be honoured by the Queen today.

Davies, The Kinks' front man and main songwriter, received a CBE in the New Year's Honours list for services to music and will collect the award at Buckingham Palace.

In poll after poll, The Kinks' song Waterloo Sunset has been voted the best song ever written about London, it's only serious competition coming from London Calling by The Clash.

This week has been something of a boon for ageing rockers everywhere. While Davies, now 59, receives the gratitude of the Queen, over in the US fellow 60s star George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


All Goes Dark At Brits
- Lowestoft lads The Darkness lead the charge at music industry awards

LOWESTOFT band The Darkness led the charge at last night's Brit Awards held in London's Earls Court.

The (tongue in cheek?) glam-rock revivalists picked up best British album, best British group and best British rock act at the event. The gongs go some way to alleviate the band's failure to pick up last year's Mercury prize and the number one spot at Christmas, despite being widely plugged to do so.

Other awards went to Daniel Bedingfield (British male singer), Dido (best British female singer and best British single), Fame Academy runner up Lemar (best British urban act) and Justin Timberlake (International male solo artist).

The long-running Brits have garnered a reputation for greasing the wheels of the music industry which is hardly surprising considering that they are run by - you guessed it - the British music industry. The event is thus primarily used as a showcase for the major labels most marketable talent rather than the most creatively innovative. Witness the dire Duran Duran picking up a 'Outstanding contribution to music' award for evidence of this.

Despite this historic malaise several credible artists do seem to slip through each year. Last night's saviours were the glorious White Stripes who grabbed best international group. Wisely they chose to stay away from the ceremony. Recognition and credibility, smart move.

Basement Jaxx, who picked up best British dance act, were the only noteworthy homegrown talent to emerge victorious.

London Music Guide - Tickets, listings and reviews

Darkness Falls on Brits
- Four nominations for retro band; awards look north for the future

THE DARKNESS look odds on to clean up at this year's Brit Awards - possibly the last to be held in London - after the 70s retro band bagged four nominations.

Those four nominations are for: Best British group, Best Album, Best Rock Act and British Breakthrough act. London singer Dido nailed three nominations along with Dizze Rascal and Busted.

For one of the awards, Best British Female Act, Dido is up against another Londoner, jazz-style singer Amy Whitehouse.

Despite the preponderance of London talent set to win awards, the Brits could be switched to Glasgow in years to come. Leaders of the Scottish city's entertainment and tourist industries are still basking in the glory of hosting last year's MTV Europe Awards and plan to add the Brits to their rosta.

"Glasgow is more than capable of hosting a high-profile event of this kind and a bid to secure the Brit Awards would be welcomed," said a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council.

The Welsh National Opera returns to London
- The spring season at Sadlers Wells takes on a Cambrian feel

Sadlers Wells sees the return of the Welsh National Opera this March. Having experienced great success in the UK for the last few years, the WNO will be opening Sadler's spring season with Tchaikovsky's powerful interpretation of Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin". The story of love, rejection and tragedy sets the mood for the season which includes Puccini's Madam Butterfly and Humperdinck's more light-hearted Hansel & Gretel.

Tugan Sokhiev makes his debut as the company's music director this year. Eugene Onegin will be his first public production with the WNO who have won a series of awards in recent years, including Classic FM's "Red f" Award for outstanding contribution to classical music.

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