The MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards came of age on Friday, celebrating its 21st outing – and third visit to Glasgow in five years – with a certain slickness and maturity, a modicum of youthful energy, and one whopping schoolboy error which surely led to some adolescent blushes backstage when one act was awarded by mistake.
But first, the ceremony pre-amble. The Hydro certainly looked handsome, with a cool blue hue illuminating a platoon of posh tables on the main floor, though the atmosphere was muted among the hoi polloi in the tiered seating as kick-off approached.
Our hosts, Kiss FM DJ double act Rickie Haywood Williams and recent Strictly casualty Melvin Odoom appeared, looking dapper in full formal kilts, to pre-record a couple of links for the otherwise live broadcast on ITV2, and there were some housekeeping instructions to heed: don’t play with the fireworks, don’t look directly into the lasers, keep your speeches pithy and use the ad breaks to visit the conveniences (immediately ignored by just about everyone).
As for the content of the event, the MOBOs can only reflect what is happening in the moment and if it has taken the musical temperature of 2016 correctly, it’s been a year of acquired attitude over visceral soul, with even the grassroots grime acts on the bill presenting a manicured face to the world.
The award presentations were mostly perfunctory affairs, officiated by fellow musicians and broadcasters. Sir Lenny Henry was notably the only presenter of the evening to give a shout-out to us plebs, while Gary: Tank Commander star Greg McHugh humorously hailed Scotland as “the natural home of reggae” before presenting the Best Reggae Award to the colourful, characterful Popcaan, whose lively performance was one of the highlights of proceedings.
Inevitably, the live performances were rigidly timed and executed, so that even a fierce free spirit like Laura Mvula was somewhat tamed and constrained by the environment. Chase and Status brought tongues of fire and a gold glitter shower to cover for their lack of a tune and you could clearly hear the distracted chatter all round the room as newcomer Izzy Bizu turned in a pedestrian ballad.
Craig David, one of the starrier names in attendance, and Brummie rapper Lady Leshurr fared better with their likeable medleys in addition to picking up their Best Male and Best Female Awards.
West London hip-hop trio Wstrn definitely won the award for most exultant celebrations, drenching the tables around them in a fizz shower, and biggest posse crammed on to the podium for an acceptable speech. But their Best Song Award jubilation was premature – in an embarrassing slip-up, the wrong envelope had been picked up backstage (don’t you hate it when that happens?) and the award was restored to rightful winners Abra Cadabra and Krept & Konan just in time to end the evening on a bum note.