A Bizarre Ride: The MOBO Awards 2016

From the resurrection of Craig David to erroneous prize-givings, this year's MOBOs were a bizarre affair

Feature by Kate Pasola | 07 Nov 2016

It’s not easy to review an awards ceremony which broadcasts live on TV, so it’s probably even harder to host one. Unlike at home, where HD cameras deliver scrutinous and selective coverage of the slickest sights on the stage, watching the MOBOs in the flesh is illuminating, to say the least.

As we approach the show’s kick-off, the audience is prepped via an enthusiastic announcement directing our attention to a countdown clock. Bagpipers begin piping and blue lights dance around the room. We’re asked to be lively, to let rip, to be at one with the music. We disappoint. We hope the viewers at home don’t notice.

Quite aptly, a regal Laura Mvula performs a rendition of Ready or Not, and the static crowd proves we’re going with ‘not.’ Even her husky vocals and twinkling smile aren’t enough to rustle up an atmosphere. Nevertheless, kilt-clad hosts Rickie Haywood-Williams and Melvin Odoom bound onto the stage, cannily reminding us all we’re celebrating the MOBOs’ 21st birthday and that we’ve got performances from Craig David, Popcaan, Lady Leshurr, Section Boyz, Fekky, Chase & Status, WSTRN, Anne Marie and Izzy Bizu to look forward to.

And it’s on with the awards. Craig David swipes Best Male Act a whole 16 years after taking Best Newcomer back at the turn of the millennium, beating Tinie Tempah and multi-nominated MCs Skepta, Stormzy and Kano. It’s simultaneously surprising and unsurprising, but a familiar enough choice to provide a tonic to the crowd’s lethargy, regardless.

The relief continues as empress of the diss and dental hygiene advocate Lady Leshurr launches into Queen’s Speech 4 (yes, the one with “brush yo teeth”) and Where Are You Now. She’s nominated for Best Female tonight, and her dizzying energy, unfaltering bars and critique of the crowd (“why you Snapchattin’ at the MOBOs for?”) foreshadow a fitting victory later in the evening. The infectiously charismatic Nadia Rose misses out on Best Newcomer, but slam-dunks Best Video for her sublime one-take choreographic accompaniment to Skwod, produced by Reece Proctor (drop everything and watch it now).

Then, the main event – our boy Craig David sheds all grudges, forgives us our sins and gives us what we want. Rewind. Fill Me In (in its guise as 16 from new LP Following My Intuition, with some Where Are Ü Now mixed in for extra #relevance). When the Bassline Drops. Nothing Like This. It’s tasteful, it’s seamless and there’s not a cringe in sight. Craig David, all over our eardrums. It’s history in the making. It’s biblical. Or maybe it’s just the Hydro’s Pinot Grigio.

Headily, we continue. Performances from Chase and Status, WSTRN, Clean Bandit and Professor Green flank a string of award presentations, but nobody upstages the scintillating Izzy Bizu who treats us to a moment of lucidity in the chaos with an emotive and divinely delicate performance of ballad Mad Behaviour.

Section Boyz take Best Hip Hop; Chip (he’s dropped the -munk) is awarded Best Grime Act; WSTRN are (wrongly) awarded Best Song, and correctly awarded Best Newcomer. More on that later. Popcaan’s given Best Reggae, which seems puts him in good spirits for his set later in the evening, though it’s a little rough round the edges. The Paving the Way MOBO is handed to boxing champion Nicola Adams by a slightly merry Lenny Henry.

Then, things get cringey. Tallia Storm, announcing Best Album, mispronounces her co-presenter’s name and assumes the winner, Kano, is a band. Audience members drunkenly intercept camera shots, and it dawns on someone, somewhere that WSTRN didn’t actually win Best Song after all. Their award is revoked and passed onto Abra Cadabra and Krept & Konan, the rightful victors. Are you keeping up?

The shellshocked audience are promptly thrown into a finale performance of Fekky x Section Boyz’s Madting, Sadting, which distracts from the absurdity of the last hour but feels more than a little on the nose. As we make our way home, Rewind firmly stuck in our heads, it feels as though we’ve just woken up from a star-studded pandemoniac dream. But it’s all there, safely recorded on the ITV Player; the Resurrection of Craig David and the most hilarious MOBOs ceremony since 1996.

A full list of winners (including best African, Jazz, Gospel and R&B/Soul) can be found at mobo.com/winners/2016