Politics took a prominent position at Australian music’s big night, alongside an almost clean-sweep from electro-pop whizz Flume, Flight of the Conchords’ threat to outshine Crowded House’s Hall of Fame induction and everyone proving they still know all the words to “You’re The Voice”. Here’s our takeaways of the best and worst bits of the broadcast and live presentation of the 2016 ARIA Awards.
Best: Marriage Equality Takes Centre Stage
An absent Sia passed over the award acceptance duties for Best Female Artist to Angie Greene, a marriage equality advocate, who in turn dedicated the win to “every single non-hetero and gender-diverse person who can currently not marry the person that they love in this country”. The long standing ovation said it all: the music industry clearly stands unified on this issue.
It was the night’s standout theme, with pop sensation Troye Sivan dedicating one of his ARIA wins to “every LGBT kid in Australia”. Later in the night, Sivan’s performance was introduced by Kylie Minogue and fiance Joshua Sasse who took the opportunity to also promote their own “I Do” Down Under equality campaign.
Best: Flume Rallies Against Sydney’s Lockout Laws
During his acceptance speech for Best Dance Release — one of eight awards he won on the night — Flume focused his attention on the controversial lockout laws that have had an adverse effect on Sydney’s nightlife. Following acknowledgement of the role that venues — “especially the small venues and the small parties” — played in his own career he went even more direct: “To our policy makers and our politicians, please keep Sydney open so that the young artists, so that the next generations of musicians, can have the same opportunities that I had.”
Worst: Between Awards Banter
Hosts The Veronicas never managed to capture the room’s full attention, as they fumbled through flat teleprompter jokes and stale whos-on-first routines. Clearly hung out to dry by weak material from the writers.
Best: Jessica Mauboy Goes Toe-to-Toe With Barnesy
The first of the Barnesy and Farnesy bookend performances of the night was a generational baton-pass of sorts, with Jessica Mauboy matching Jimmy Barnes‘ shattering vocal strength on their duet of the EasyBeats’ “Good Times”.
Worst: When In Doubt, Go with “You’re The Voice”
Organisers, once more, opted for John Farnham to perform “You’re The Voice” to lead us into the closing credits. Still a stand-out Australian song, but with little sense of ceremony (or reason?) this one felt a little bit too much like the safe opt-out.
Worst: What Vibe?
Blame in on the booze-ban — there was no alcohol served during the night — or the aforementioned hosting shortfall, but the audience of the Star City auditorium were never completely engaged in the presentation, distracted and at times clearly bored by the broadcast-focused set-up.
Best: Flight of the Conchords Fuel Trans-Transman Rivalry
Handed the honour of introducing Crowded House‘s Hall of Fame of induction, Kiwi comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords went with a hilarious spin on Australia’s obsession with adopting any internationally recognised New Zealanders.
Best: Crowded House Bring It Down
Following Flight of the Conchords’ Hall of Fame intro, Crowded House delivered a humble and touching speech, before seamlessly launching into their swansong performance, disguising the usual stumbling set-up with spot-on covers from Missy Higgins and Bernard Fanning. By far the slickest televised segment of the night.
Worst: Delayed Broadcast in the Digital Age
The few hours lag plus the over-sharing information age is an incompatible mix. The result: many of the winners of the big awards from the first half of the night were revealed across social media long before actually being aired.
Best: All Violent Soho Everything
Standing out at least partly due to their fashion decision to go with flannos over suits, the Violent Soho boys seemed to be all across the broadcast on Wednesday night. Between the standing applause of the Barnes/Mauboy intro to being shown singing their lungs out to Farnham’s finale, they performed live with pyro aids and picked up a pair of deserved awards — Best Rock Album and Best Group. The latter initially accepted by their label in their absence, with the band eventually arriving from side of stage with apologies that they were “backstage drinking beers”.