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Live / stage review

The power is in your hands: the MOBOs at Sheffield Arena

Celebrating music of Black origin across the UK, the glitzy awards ceremony's first visit to Sheffield featured everything from northern grime to sound-system culture.

7 February 2024 at
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The view from our seats.

Hamish Yewdall.

Last night Sheffield hosted one of the biggest music awards of the year for the first time: the MOBOs, dedicated to music of Black origin. The awards ceremony celebrates achievement in hip-hop, grime, R&B, soul, reggae, jazz, gospel and African music, and arriving at Sheffield Arena I got carried away with excitement – I couldn’t get over the fact that the last time I was here I was waiting to get my Covid jab, but this time I was standing by the red carpet seeing superstars like Little Simz arrive.

The show itself opened with Byron Messia transporting us to the Caribbean, and with a huge sound-system at the back of the stage, Byron started the night with energy and style. Then it was onto the awards. The atmosphere throughout the night was electric, and the arena felt like a sports venue again, with crowds cheering on their favourite artists.

The big winners of the night included Little Simz for Best Hip-hop Act, Central Cee for Best Male Artist, and Raye for Best Female Artist. In accepting her award, Little Simz said she felt humble and grateful. Unfortunately, Raye was unable to attend, but recorded a video saying how annoyed she was to miss out on celebrating such an important career milestone.

Bugzy Malone took Best Grime Act, and in his speech said: “When I first started doing music, nobody in the north was making money and now we’re out here successful, independent. So I guess tonight we’re celebrating Black independence. To that I say: the sky is the limit, be inspired is the mind.”

MOBO Awards 6 Utilita Arena Sheffield Credit Glenn Ashley

The Sugababes picked up an Impact Award in recognition of their contribution to music.

Glenn Ashley.

The night didn’t just celebrate music, but also Black culture. ShxtsNGigs won an award for Best Media Personality, and talking about their podcast they said: “It just started with two friends making each other laugh, now we’ve made more friends than we could ever imagine.” Local legend Jessica Ennis-Hill won an award for Paving the Way, recognising not only her amazing sporting achievements but also her work with local communities and in inspiring people to take up sport.

But the MOBOs aren’t just about the awards – it’s also a party. To celebrate there were performances throughout the night, with the Sugababes returning to Sheffield to not only perform but also to pick up an Impact Award recognising their contribution to music over the past two decades. Filling the arena with pop hits and harmonies, the group once again showed why they are so important and influential.

DJ Spoony turned it up a notch with his tribute to 30 years of garage. The brief here was clear: a ten minute set encompassing everyone's favourite garage tracks. With the help of a few guests, Spoony delivered. The entire arena was on its feet, dancing and singing along. Ghetts, winner of the Pioneer Award, delivered a powerful performance of his new track ‘Double Standards’. In an election year this song feels like a political manifesto, calling out the hypocrisy of our existing society. The sold-out arena was listening to his every word, showing why Ghetts is one of our most powerful lyricists right now.

Soul II Soul received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Speaking about the award, the collective’s founder Jazzie B summed up the importance of the MOBOs perfectly. “We are all children of the Windrush. There would be no lovers rock, no Soul II Soul, no garage, no jungle, no drill, and most importantly, you young people would never have had the chance. So believe me, this award ceremony puts Black UK on the map globally. You’ve got to understand the power is in your hands.”

MOBO Awards 1 Utilita Arena Sheffield Credit Glenn Ashley

Jazzie B on the red carpet at the MOBO Awards in Sheffield.

Glenn Ashley.

He continued: “It’s time for the government to clear up their mess, and respect the children of the Windrush who came over here to rebuild your country. These young people today, in Sheffield, celebrating the MOBOs, are all a representation of when great things happen.”

The night closed with a performance from Soul II Soul bringing the crowd to their feet for one final dance, and we leave the arena with ‘Back to Life’ still ringing in our ears. What a night – what a fantastic celebration of music and culture. It’s so exciting that these awards came to Sheffield. I have a feeling it will continue to inspire music and events across the city for years to come.

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