The 2021 Brit Awards will take place later in front of a 4,000-strong live audience without social distancing or face masks at London’s O2 Arena.

Coldplay will open the show with a performance from a pontoon on the River Thames. Dua Lipa, Arlo Parks and Headie One will play inside the venue.

The show is part of the government’s pilot scheme for reopening live events.

Pop star Rag ‘n’ Bone man said it would be “really emotional” to play to fans for the first time in over a year.

“I’m not sure that I’m completely mentally prepared for it, but I’ll give it my all,” said the star, who’ll be accompanied on stage by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Choir.

US star Olivia Rodrigo, meanwhile, has spent the last week quarantining in a countryside hotel after flying into the UK to perform at the ceremony.

The singer, whose debut single Drivers License topped the charts for nine weeks earlier this year, says the Brits will mark the first time she’s ever played her music for a live audience.

“It’s so crazy in my head,” she told the BBC.

“Drivers License came out in quarantine, and I got to see the streaming numbers and the Tik Toks that people made – but it’s a completely different experience to see people being affected by it in real life so I’m really, really excited.”

Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo’s Drivers License is the biggest-selling song of 2021 to date

Dua Lipa, who is rumoured to be staging a “London-themed” performance, is a front-runner for the night’s main prizes, including album of the year.

Her latest record, Future Nostalgia, arrived at the start of the first lockdown in 2020 and spent four weeks at number one. It went on to become the biggest-selling album released in the UK last year, selling more than 265,000 copies.

The star is also up for best single, for the club anthem Physical, and best British female, giving her a grand total of three nominations.

Arlo Parks, Celeste, Joel Corry and Young T & Bugsey also have three nominations apiece; while Taylor Swift will become only the fourth artist to win the Global Icon award – after Elton John (2014), David Bowie (2016) and Robbie Williams (2017).

“It feels great to get some recognition, to be out and about, getting to do my job again,” said double nominee AJ Tracey. “I’m really looking forward to it, man.”

The live audience of about 4,000 people is about one-fifth of the O2’s capacity. More than half of the ticket-holders will be key workers from Greater London and their guests.

Showrunner Selina Webb said it was important to make music fans and NHS staff the focus of the event.

“We were very clear that, even if we could have had tables with people clinking glasses, it did not feel right to do that,” she told Music Week magazine.

She added that the ceremony wouldn’t just be a celebration of “what’s happened in the charts last year”, instead delivering a “broader message about the power of music, and how it can bring everyone together”.

The show will be broadcast live on ITV from 20:00 BST in the UK; and on the Brits official YouTube channel for the rest of the world.

Source: BBC