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Muse kick off BRITs, Sande, Mumford & Sons win early

LONDON (Reuters) - British rockers Muse got the 2013 BRIT Awards off to a rousing start on Wednesday with "Supremacy", complete with fireworks and a full orchestra standing on balconies behind them.
/ Source: Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - British rockers Muse got the 2013 BRIT Awards off to a rousing start on Wednesday with "Supremacy", complete with fireworks and a full orchestra standing on balconies behind them.

Scottish singer Emeli Sande was the first winner on the night when she was named best British female and the best group award went to Mumford & Sons, who, along with Sande, were nominated for three awards going into British pop music's biggest night.

Justin Timberlake, wearing a shiny black tuxedo and matching bow tie, sang "Mirrors", continuing his pop comeback ahead of the scheduled March release of "The 20/20 Experience", his first album since 2006.

Among those down to perform later at a packed O2 Arena in London were Taylor Swift, Mumford & Sons and One Direction. James Corden, the comedian hosting the evening awards, made joking reference to One Direction's Harry Styles and his highly public love life.

"Sharon Osbourne is here, Annie Lennox is here. Who have you got your eye on?" Corden asked.

Styles, seated along with his band mates at dinner tables along with hundreds of other stars and industry bosses, smiled sheepishly and hid his face behind an awards program.

As well as best female, Sande, whose profile received a major boost when she took part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics last year, was nominated for best British single for "Next to Me" and the most coveted British album prize award for "Our Version of Events".

In that category she is up against Mumford & Sons for "Babel", Alt-J ("An Awesome Wave"), Paloma Faith ("Fall to Grace") and Plan B ("Ill Manors").

Sande's was Britain's best-selling album in 2012, but the ongoing slump in CD sales last year is likely to overshadow what should be a celebration of the vibrant state of the country's pop music scene.

According to official figures, overall British album sales fell 11.2 percent to 100.5 million in 2012, despite a rise of nearly 15 percent in digital album sales.

While digital downloads account for an increasing share of record labels' revenues, the bulk still comes from physical CDs, and the steady decline blamed on online piracy and a shift towards buying singles online is a major concern.

Adele looks set to add to her groaning trophy cabinet with the best single award for James Bond theme "Skyfall". U.S. acts Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean are bookmaker Ladbrokes' favorites for best international female and male respectively.

Veteran rockers the Rolling Stones have been shortlisted for best live act after they returned to the stage for a short, sellout tour of London and the United States at the end of 2012 to mark 50 years in the business.

The last time the group was nominated for a BRIT was in 1996, and the Rolling Stones are the only act to be nominated both at this year's ceremony at the O2 Arena and at the first BRIT Awards staged in 1977.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)