Empire of the Sun shone brightest at the ARIA Awards in Sydney, where the psychedelic newcomers picked up four awards including best group and the coveted album of the year gong. New Zealand-born pop artist Ladyhawke and veteran rockers AC/DC each won two categories on the night.

The annual industry gala capped a meteoric rise for Empire of the Sun, whose platinum-certified (70,000 units) debut album "Walking On A Dream" (EMI) won album of the year, and its title track collected the single of the year and best pop release honors. Just two weeks earlier, the electronic-edged act won three categories at the Nov. 10 ARIA Artisan and Fine Arts awards.

Empire of the Sun beat out stiff competition to win best group, a category which contained AC/DC, hip hoppers Hilltop Hoods, and alternative rock acts Eskimo Joe and the Drones. However, the makeup of the six-time ARIA nominated act is less that of a group than a solo act at the moment. One half of the duo, producer artist Nick Littlemore, had "disappeared" from the band in recent months to work on his other project Pnau, explained Steele.

"I'm here representing Empire," Steele told the audience. "Obviously Nick's disappeared, he's oversees, so tonight he's invisible Nick. Cheers for me, eh." Steele also paid homage to Donnie Sloan, who contributed to the creative on some tracks, and the album's engineer Peter Mayes.

Another newcomer to the ARIAs, Pip Brown -- aka Ladyhawke -- collected multiple-wins for her debut self titled Modular Records/Universal Music Australia release which won for breakthrough artist-album and its catchy single "My Delirium" won breakthrough artist single.

Returning rock legends AC/DC also grabbed two awards, their comeback album "Black Ice" (Albert Productions/Sony Music) winning for best rock album and highest-selling album. The band accepted their wins via a televised link from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the band's "Black Ice" tour is on the road.

Former "Australian Idol" contestant Jessica Mauboy converted just one of her leading seven nominations, the Darwin-born R&B singer winning the best-selling single award for her hit "Running Back" (Sony Music).

Paul Dempsey's wait for an elusive ARIA Award will continue. None of the EMI-signed singer's three nods went on to prize, bringing to 16 his all-time tally of ARIA Award nominations without a win. The artist was pipped in the best male artist category by Universal Music Australia-signed newcomer Daniel Merriweather, whose soulful debut album "Love & War" opened at No. 2 on the Official U.K. Albums chart earlier this year.

"Oh well, maybe next time," Dempsey told Billboard.biz after the show. "To be honest, I didn't get my hopes up too high," he said with a wry smile.

Best female artist honor went to Sarah Blasko. European audiences will get a chance to sample the singer's critically lauded Dew Process/Universal Music Australia album "As Day Follows Night" next March when it earns a conventional release there through Dramatico Entertainment. The artist backed up her win with a "three divas" performance in the round, one of the night's musical highlights which saw Blasko, Kate Miller-Heidke and Lisa Mitchell take turns sharing the spotlight.

The biggest -- and undoubtedly noisiest -- cheers on the night went out to Robbie Williams, whose performance of new single "Bodies" had the Acer Area crowd whipped into a frenzy.

Other key winners included the Presets' "Talk Like That" (Modular) for best dance release, Bertie Blackman's "Secrets and Lies" (Forum 5/MGM) for best independent release, Sia's "TV Is My Parent" (Monkey Puzzle/Inertia) for best music DVD, Josh Pyke's Chimney's Afire" (Ivy League/Universal Music Australia) and C.W. Stoneking's "Jungle Blues" (King Hokum/Shock Entertainment) for best blues and roots album.

Troy Cassar-Daley was a surprise winner in the best country album category, nudging out Keith Urban for his fourth career win. The best urban release award went to Hilltop Hoods for their chart-topping album, "State of the Art" (Golden Era/Universal Music Australia).

For the first time in the event's 23-year history, live performances from the ARIAs will be released for sale. From Dec. 1, the Australian iTunes digital music store will host and distribute live recordings taped on the night, proceeds from which will be donated to local charity, Youth Beyond Blue. ARIA 2009 performers included the Temper Trap, Empire of the Sun, Ladyhawke, Hilltop Hoods, Jessica Mauboy and Keith Urban, who raised curtains on the 2009 ceremony.

Australia's free-to-air Nine Network beamed the show live as part of a new, multi-year broadcast arrangement with organizers ARIA. MTV will host an encore performance Nov. 27.

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