Amy Shark may have been the big winner of the 2018 ARIA Awards at Sydney’s The Star on Wednesday night, but Kasey Chambers and Paul Kelly pulled off the best double act while neither was singing.
Hall of Fame inductee Chambers, who minutes earlier performed with an ensemble including Missy Higgins and Kate Miller-Heidke, stood back as Kelly took the microphone nearly 90 minutes into the ceremony.
He serenaded her with a spoken poem about meeting her in a tent when she was playing to “bearded muddy bikers”. Pointing to his heart, Kelly said, “Kasey they’ll never call you tame and that is why you live right here, in my own hall of fame”.
Chambers, who cried onstage, hoisted up her pink and red ruffled maxi skirt to tug a speech out of her boot but then went off script and spoke from the heart about advice from her parents.
“My mum taught me over the years that being a b—h doesn’t make you strong and being strong doesn’t make you a b—h,” she said.
As for her dad, “He said to me once, just don’t be a d–khead”.
The mother of three, referencing her most famous song, said “I still have days when I look in the mirror and go, ‘Am I not pretty enough?’
“But my answer now is, ‘Who gives a f–k?’ ”
— ARIA (@ARIA_Official) November 28, 2018
The country star’s honesty brought the crowd to its feet, but in a way the awards belonged to a man who wasn’t there: Gurrumul.
Also known as Dr G Yunupingu since his death last July, the late singer songwriter won four posthumous ARIAs for his final album Djarimirri: Child of the Rainbow, the first indigenous language album to top the ARIA charts.
His daughter Jasmine Gurrumul collected the trophies on his behalf, saying her father “was a special person to everyone he met and all he wanted was for people to like his music”.
Host Keith Urban also paid tribute to Gurrumul and his awards: “He won those not because he died, but because he lived.”
The emotion was a sharp contrast to the oddly anodyne vibes that bedevilled the first part of the show, mostly because of the tough crowd’s refusal to pander to anything it wasn’t totally feeling.
As Urban said, “It’s a tough room”.
— ARIA (@ARIA_Official) November 28, 2018
It wasn’t until an hour after 5 Seconds of Summer kicked off proceedings, the ceremony finally got the rock energies it needed.
And, fittingly, it was Jimmy Barnes who delivered them.
Rather than fumbling with a laundry list of thank-yous, the former Cold Chisel frontman kept things short and sweet accepting the award for original soundtrack or musical theatre cast album for Jimmy Barnes Working Class Boy – The Soundtracks.
Barnesy simply ran through the names of his siblings “who lived through the f—–g life with me,” then stalked offstage.
The unflinching edge was overdue.
Urban tried hard but his casually gushing style – saying “Oh hi baby” to wife Nicole Kidman in the front row as his opening line – was perhaps too clean cut for the down-and-dirty music industry’s big night.
International guest Rita Ora also failed to gain traction with the unreceptive audience when she took the stage to present best pop release to Shark for Love Monster.
Urban was so determined to be conversational he asked Ora how her birthday was. “I can’t really remember it … but I’m 28!” Ora replied, to zero response from the audience.
“Best kind of birthday,” Urban said, (who told British singer George Ezra his song Shotgun made him “want to punch a beanbag”).
Urban was joined by rock veteran Sir Bob Geldof, who helped present the final award – song of the year (5 Seconds of Summer, Youngblood).
Geldof appeared in stark contrast to the teetotaller Urban, as was noted across social media.
So Bob Geldof is an EXTREMELY loose unit and I think the people who booked him secretly knew this #ARIAs
— Paul Donoughue (@paulwdonoughue) November 28, 2018
Blank faces from the A-listers, whose lack of enthusiasm was soon getting so old it was called out by Vance Joy when he won the adult contemporary award for Nation of Two.
Sophie Monk had her own awkward monologue with the crowd, which was impervious to her bogan charms. The reality TV queen told how she’s yet to win an ARIA after 20 years, and suggested a participation category be created.
“Don’t you feel me, everyone who has not won one yet?” They didn’t. Monk then tried to appeal by calling Chambers “adorable”. After silence, she trailed off: “Anyway.”
Shark, who gigged for years until her song Adore was picked up by triple j in 2016, said it was “insane” to win best pop release for the second year running.
During her repeat appearances onstage – she also won best female artist and album of the year – the 32-year-old Queenslander (aka Amy Billings) thanked husband Shane.
“Eleven years ago we started dating and I don’t have much time tonight to tell you everything I want to say to you right now,” Shark said.
“You’re the reason I’m up here and this ARIA is yours as well.”
Shark, who wrapped the show singing Urban’s The Fighter with him, called 2018 a “very amazing year” for women in music.
“I believe we all work just as hard as any male in music and I thank you all … for believing the sex of a human doesn’t define their work or ability.”
2018 ARIA WINNERS:
Album of the Year: Amy Shark, Love Monster
Song of the Year: 5 Seconds of Summer, Youngblood
Best Male Artist: Gurrumul, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)
Best Female Artist: Amy Shark, Love Monster
Best Dance Release: Pnau, Go Bang
Best Group: 5 Seconds of Summer, Youngblood
Best Pop Release: Amy Shark, Love Monster
Best Independent Release: Gurrumul, Djarimirri (Child of the Rainbow)
Best Rock Album: Courtney Barnett, Tell Me How You Really Feel
Best Adult Contemporary Album: Vance Joy, Nation of Two
Best Australian Live Act: 5 Seconds of Summer, Meet You There Tour