Arias 2017: Gang of Youths, Paul Kelly and AB Original lead celebration of music and change
Gang of Youths and Paul Kelly were the big winners at the 31st Aria awards, on a night that saw Indigenous rap duo AB Original declare “change doesn’t come from everyone being comfortable” after Triple J’s decision to move the date of the Hottest 100.
On their way to winning best independent release and best urban release, rappers Briggs and Trials delivered the performance of the night with Kelly and Dan Sultan. Their updated, explicitly political, cover of Dumb Things saw Briggs rap the now-prescient line: “The date’s changin’.”
“We made this album for our community, in our community, from our community,” said Briggs of the group’s debut album, Reclaim Australia. “We made ourselves extremely uncomfortable trying to make this record, trying to upset all those rednecks, but we did it ... They were vocal, but we just had the better album.”
Sydney band Gang of Youths picked up the most awards on the night, winning album of the year, best group and best rock album for their Aria chart-topping second album Go Farther In Lightness. They won best producer earlier this year in the artisan categories, which took their tally – with Kelly’s – to four.
In a moving speech, lead singer Dave Le’aupepe paid tribute to his band’s migrant heritage. “We’re all immigrants to this country, every single one of us,” he said. “This country was built on a strong Indigenous people and on the backs of immigrants.”
“We’re Pacific Islanders and we’re very proud of our heritage. We are a loving community and we’re not just useful on the footy field, and we hope this proves something.”
Le’aupepe thanked AB Original for “making an incendiary, important record for the brown boys”, and praised Amy Shark for being “one of the strongest women”. “My grandparents came on a boat after the Holocaust,” he said. “They came as refugees to this country and thank you for welcoming us.”
Earlier in the night, the red carpet was dominated by questions about Triple J’s decision to move the date of the Hottest 100 away from January 26.
“That day commemorates the beginning of the ongoing genocide of our people,” Sultan said. Sultan featured on AB Original’s 2016 single January 26, which argued for Australia Day to be moved and became a rallying point for the campaign to change the date of Triple J’s annual poll.
Briggs also didn’t mince words: “Australia Day is trash,” he said. “It’s
14 years old. We’ve got 80,000 years of history here. I think it’s a good trajectory for the industry. It’s also a good indication of how the majority of people feel. They’re reasonable folks who know that Australia Day is trash and we can’t enjoy the countdown that includes our songs on that day.”
Paul Kelly won best male artist and best adult contemporary album for Life is Fine, three years after his last win and 20 years after he was inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame. Life is Fine is his first album to debut at #1 on the Aria charts; it also won two artisan awards, for best engineer and best cover art.
Amy Shark, whose single Adore came second at last year’s Hottest 100, won best pop release and breakthrough artist.
“There are a lot of years that I was frustrated with the industry,” she said. “I just wanted everyone to hear my music so bad. My heart can’t handle this. This is an incredible night for me.”
Sia won best female artist for the second year in a row, and the third time since 2014. Despite being in the country for an upcoming stadium tour, the fame-shy pop singer did not appear.
The ceremony – held at Sydney’s Star casino and hosted more than a little awkwardly by Richard Wilkins – saw a high calibre of performances, including one from ex-One Direction-er Harry Styles and another from Lorde, who combined piano ballad Liability with her hit single Green Light.
Jessica Mauboy mashed-up her song Fallin’ with Peking Duk’s song of the year winner Stranger, and Gang of Youths played What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out.
Darryl Braithwaite was inducted into the Aria hall of fame by fellow Australian music legend Jimmy Barnes, and brought the second-biggest cheer of the night with The Horses, performed with Guy Sebastian and Vera Blue. But Styles – who won the fan-voted best international artist – got the biggest screams, with a performance of Kiwi.
Rapper Illy won best live act, hiphop group Bliss N Eso won best video for their single Moments, and Kasey Chambers won her eighth solo Aria, picking up best country album for Dragonfly.
“There’s a lot of negative stuff said about being a woman in the industry over 40 years old,” she said, “but I fucking love it!”
Sydney band All Our Exes Live In Texas won best blues and roots album for When We Fall. Speaking in the press room, Hannah Croft told reporters her nails spelled out “Save Manus”, while Katie Wighton said hers spelled “#metoo”.
“As a feminist band it’s very important for us, particularly at the moment,” she said. “We work with a team of women, our manager is a woman, and both our booking agents are women.”
They told aspiring female artists to “just form a band with your girlfriends, get in a garage just like the boys do.”
Jimmy Barnes led a huge rendition of AC/DC’s High Voltage in honour of the Young brothers: AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young who died on 18 November, and his older brother George Young, the AC/DC producer and Easybeats band member who died a month earlier.
Barnes also won his first award since 1992 for children’s record Och Aye the G’Nu!, and accepted the award alongside Anthony Field from The Wiggles, and his very young grandson Dylan.
Barnes, who has recently released two memoirs chronicling his addiction and depression, said writing about his life has been “a really good thing”.
“You probably could have done this with a therapist, which I was doing as well, but I’ve had to do it in the public eye obviously ... Most people remember more about those days then I do. But it’s been very cathartic. It’s a really nice thing to do.”
The full winners list: Album of the year
WINNER: Gang Of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness A.B. Original – Reclaim Australia Amy Shark – Night Thinker Illy – Two Degrees Paul Kelly – Life Is Fine
Best male artist
WINNER: Paul Kelly – Life Is Fine D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated Dan Sultan – Killer Illy – Two Degrees Vance Joy – Lay It On Me
Best female artist
WINNER: Sia – The Greatest feat. Kendrick Lamar Amy Shark – Night Thinker Jessica Mauboy – The Secret Daughter (Songs from the Original TV Series) Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let The Kids Win Meg Mac – Low Blows
Best dance release
WINNER: Pnau – Chameleon Dom Dolla amp; Torren Foot – Be Randy Jagwar Ma – Every Now amp; Then Peking Duk – Stranger (feat. Elliphant) The Kite String Tangle – The Kite String Tangle
WINNER: Gang Of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness A.B Original – Reclaim Australia King Gizzard amp; The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana Nick Cave amp; The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Peking Duk – Stranger (feat. Elliphant)
WINNER: Amy Shark – Night Thinker A.B Original – Reclaim Australia Dean Lewis – Waves Tash Sultana – Notion Tkay Maidza – TKAY
Best pop release
WINNER: Amy Shark – Night Thinker Dean Lewis – Waves Jessica Mauboy – Fallin’ Sia – The Greatest (feat. Kendrick Lamar) Vera Blue – Perennial
Best urban album
WINNER: A.B. Original – Reclaim Australia Illy – Two Degrees REMI – Divas amp; Demons Thundamentals – Everyone We Know Tkay Maidza – TKAY
Best independent release
WINNER: A.B. Original – Reclaim Australia Dan Sultan – Killer Sia – The Greatest (feat. Kendrick Lamar) Tash Sultana – Notion Vance Joy – Lay It On Me
Best rock album
WINNER: Gang Of Youths – Go Farther In Lightness Dan Sultan – Killer Dune Rats – The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit Polish Club – Alright Already The Preatures – Girlhood
Best adult contemporary album
WINNER: Paul Kelly – Life Is Fine Bernard Fanning – Brutal Dawn D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated Nick Cave amp; The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree Pete Murray – Camacho
Best country album
WINNER: Kasey Chambers – Dragonfly Lee Kernaghan – The 25th Anniversary Album O’Shea – 61-615 Shane Nicholson – Love And Blood The McClymonts – Endless
Best hard rock/heavy metal album
WINNER: Northlane – Mesmer Airbourne – Breaking Outta Hell Frenzal Rhomb – Hi-Vis High Tea King Gizzard amp; The Lizard Wizard – Murder Of The Universe Sleepmakeswaves – Made of Breath Only
Best blues amp; roots album
WINNER: All Our Exes Live In Texas – When We Fall Archie Roach – Let Love Rule Busby Marou – Postcards From The Shell House Paul Kelly amp; Charlie Owen – Death’s Dateless Night Tash Sultana – Notion
Best children’s album
WINNER: Jimmy Barnes – Och Aye the G’Nu! Lah-Lah – Having Fun! Peter Combe – Live It Up The Idea of North, Lior amp; Elena Kats-Chernin – A Piece of Quiet [The Hush Collection, Vol 16] The Wiggles – The Wiggles Duets
WINNER: Bliss N Eso – Moments (feat. Gavin James) Jessica Mauboy – Fallin’ Amy Shark – Drive You Mad Client Liaison – A Foreign Affair Client Liaison – Off White Limousine Dean Lewis – Waves Gang Of Youths – The Deepest Signs, the Frankest Shadows Illy – You Say When (feat. Marko Penn) Kirin J Callinan – S.A.D Sia – The Greatest (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Best Australian live act (public voted)
WINNER: Illy Gang Of Youths Client Liaison Flume Jessica Mauboy King Gizzard amp; The Lizard Wizard Nick Cave amp; The Bad Seeds Peking Duk Tash Sultana Violent Soho
Song of the year (public voted)
WINNER: Peking Duk – Stranger (feat. Elliphant) ’Amy Shark – Adore Bliss N Eso – Moments (feat. Gavin James) Dean Lewis – Waves Guy Sebastian – Set In Stone Illy – Catch 22 (feat. Anne-Marie) Jessica Mauboy – Fallin Pnau – Chameleon Sia – The Greatest (feat. Kendrick Lamar) Starley – Call On Me (Ryan Riback Remix)
Best international artist (public voted)
WINNER: Harry Styles – Harry Styles Adele – 25 Bruno Mars – 24K Magic Ed Sheeran – ÷ and Loose Change Kendrick Lamar – DAMN and Untitled Unmastered Lorde – Melodrama Metallica – Hardwired... To Self-Destruct Shawn Mendes – Illuminate The Rolling Stones – Blue amp; Lonesome The Weeknd – Starboy
Music teacher of the year:
Renee McCarthy (Woodcroft College, Morphett Vale SA)
Producer Of The Year: Gang Of Youths and Adrian Breakspear for Gang Of Youths’ Go Farther In Lightness
Engineer Of The Year: Steven Schram for Paul Kelly’s Life Is Fine
Best Cover Art: Peter Salmon Lomas for Paul Kelly’s Life Is Fine
Fine arts awards
Best Classical Album: Slava Grigoryan – Bach: Cello Suites Volume I
Best Jazz Album: James Morrison, BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart, Harry Morrison amp; William Morrison – The Great American Songbook
Best Original Soundtrack/Cast/ Show Album: Nigel Westlake amp; Sydney Symphony Orchestra, with Joseph Tawadros, Slava Grigoryan amp; Lior – Ali’s Wedding
Best World Music Album: Katie Noonan and Karin Schaupp – Songs of the Latin Skies
Best comedy release: John Clarke – Clarke’s Classics
Dan Sultan, Paul Kelly and A.B. Original after performing their update of Dumb Things. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images for ARIA
‘The date’s changin’’: Briggs and Trials of AB Original accept the Aria award for best urban release. Photograph: David Moir/AAP