Irish singer-songwriter Damien Rice collected the third annual Shortlist Music Prize last night (Oct. 5), climaxing a four-and-a-half hour concert featuring Rice and seven of the nine other nominees at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles.
Styled as a U.S. equivalent to Britain’s Mercury Prize, the Shortlist Prize honors cutting-edge performers whose latest albums have sold less than 500,000 copies at the time of their nomination. The nominees and winner were selected by a panel of “listmakers,” which this year included Dave Matthews, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Erykah Badu, Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction, Chris Martin of Coldplay and directors Cameron Crowe and Spike Jonze.
Rice, who succeeded Icelandic band Sigur Ros (also among this year’s nominees) and hip-hop act N.E.R.D. as a winner, received a $5,000 cash prize presented by Sirius Satellite Radio. His four-song set of material from his Vector debut “O” was the most rapturously received of the evening.
This year’s heavily attended ceremony at the cavernous Wiltern was a strong indicator of the burgeoning interest in the left-of-center talents feted by the Shortlist. Two years ago, the show was held at the Hollywood club the Knitting Factory; in 2002, it moved to the roomier Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre.
The show, which was taped by MTV2 for an Oct. 25 telecast that will boast interviews as well as performances, featured wall-to-wall music and sported none of the more tiresome trappings of other awards evenings. But the succession of 20-minute sets by eight acts made for a needlessly elongated evening, for both audience members and performers alike.
Introducing female duo Floetry not long before the show’s conclusion at 12:45 a.m., Macy Gray quipped, “I don’t think you can call it the Shortlist anymore, ’cause we’ve all been here for four f***ing hours now.”
Still, the evening held some compelling music. Singer Cat Power waded deep into the crowd as she sang a medley of soul standards by James Brown and Otis Redding. In back-to-back performances, 13-piece Omaha band Bright Eyes and two-member Akron-based blues-rock unit the Black Keys charted the extremes of rock expansiveness and economy. England’s the Streets and Floetry delineated new frontiers in rap, while Cody Chestnutt offered his unique brand of spiritual soul-rock. Interpol wrapped the evening with an expansive set of Anglified post-punk.
New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs rounded out the list of nominees.