Usually, I find the Brit awards to be as dry as a mouthful of oatcakes, but this year’s postponed ceremony seemed fresher than in recent years, working within the disruptions caused by the pandemic to put on a more creative, exuberant evening. Following a couple of closely monitored trials, it was one of the first landmark music events to have welcomed back an audience, of 4,000 people, mostly key workers, all extremely up for it.
There was a split second when the excitement of a crowd simply being there gave me goosebumps. Some of the performances were videos broadcast into the O2 Arena – the Weeknd sang in a stormy box, while Coldplay appeared with holographic backing dancers on a pontoon on the Thames, just outside – and I thought reigning queen Dua Lipa might be performing via video, too. She started a medley of hits from this year’s certified best album, Future Nostalgia, with a prerecorded clip of her singing on the tube (I moved away from London almost a year ago, but I know its spirit will never leave me, because my first reaction was an instinctive irritation that it might delay the service). As the doors opened, she burst on to the stage, into a skeleton of a tube carriage, in person, right there. The performance was astonishing and left no one in doubt as to why Dua Lipa has so dominated pop music over the past 18 months. It was the moment she first appeared, in her union jack skirt and jacket, that got me, because of the roar of the crowd. It was communal, thrilling and it made me pine to be watching live music again.
The tentative possibility of going to a local venue to see a show is moving closer, but the nerves of the live music industry are jangling and the government is doing little to soothe them. The Association of Independent Festivals has issued a red alert , warning that 76% of festivals scheduled to take place in July and August this year– and that is just the festivals still hoping to go ahead, after many said they couldn’t risk it – could be cancelled without urgent intervention.
They need a safety net of insurance, in case of unexpected Covid-related issues. But last week, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said that any government-backed insurance scheme would only be considered after 21 June, which is a bit like opening the bar after everyone has gone home. The British entertainment industry is lucrative, but once again, despite the vast number of jobs and huge income it generates, music is being ghosted.
Will Friends reunited work 20 years on?
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been photographed together on what was reported to be a “romantic skiing holiday” (an oxymoron: I have never been skiing, but I doubt that anything involving an item of clothing called salopettes encourages sexual frisson), while one of the most awaited television events of recent years is a new episode of Friends. We just need to bring back jeans the width of a house and Body Shop Ananya lotion and it will be as if the last 20 years never happened.
A longing for more simple times may be why the Friends obsession has endured. Last week saw the release of a teaser clip for The One Where They Get Back Together, a reunion special this month, with the actors appearing as themselves and featuring other actors who played characters on the show, also as themselves and, oddly, Malala Yousafzai and David Beckham, set to a slowed-down, melancholy version of I’ll Be There For You, which makes it look a bit like the in memoriam segment at an awards ceremony. “Could we BE any more excited?!” asked Jennifer Aniston, posting the clip, to which the obvious response is, well, probably a bit more, yes.
No more talking the talk
Ellen DeGeneres’s talkshow will end after its 19th season, but emphatically not, she says, because of the BuzzFeed exposé about the production having a “toxic workplace culture”, tumbling ratings or that many celebrities seem about as keen to appear as they would be to make a sequel to Gal Gadot and pals’ cover of Imagine.
“When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged, and as great as this show is, and, as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge any more,” DeGeneres told the Hollywood Reporter. At first, that sounds like “it’s not you, it’s me”, but it is also suspiciously close to “it’s not me, it’s you”.
DeGeneres’s brand was built, famously, on her “be kind” slogan, which, as many have noted, seems at odds with her penchant for practical jokes that involve scaring the life out of people or the hidden camera tests to see if people could behave decently. In another interview last week, with the US breakfast show Today, DeGeneres refuted claims that the show had been a toxic workplace “when all I’ve ever heard from every guest that comes on the show is what a happy atmosphere this is”, although I can’t imagine celebrity guests are in the same position as employees.
It is the end of an era. Her career path , from star and creator of a cancelled sitcom to queen of daytime television, was spectacular and she redefined what it meant to be a celebrity. But times have changed and the illusion of relatability is no longer enough to make it bankable.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist