The night saw performances from some of the music industry’s biggest stars, awards for some old timers and a few upsets along the away.
Little Mix opened the show, carried in on thrones like the queens of pop they are. Performing Shoutout To My Ex flanked by 70-plus dancers in what could be described as Michael and Janet in Scream meets Gaga in space via RuPaul’s Drag Race, they raised the roof right off the O2 before ascending up out of it on a hydraulic lift.
Bruno Mars crooned his way through That’s What I Like in a super-smooth performance that seemed to win over a crowd of baying ladies, despite him being dressed as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Emeli Sande was accompanied by a troupe of contemporary, martial-arts style dancers as she did what she does best. She delivered a dramatic version on her latest track Hurts, and perhaps surprisingly, gave one of the stand-out performances of night.
The 1975 gave a somewhat erratic performance of The Sound. Critics’ reviews of the band flashed on screen throughout with barbs such as “totally lacking the wow factor” and “Is this a joke?” The irony may have been a little lost. Although, choir in tow, the boys still managed to delight the crowd.
Katy Perry’s rendition of new tune Chained to the Rhythm had all the charisma of the cardboard houses and giant skeleton that shared her stage. The sound team were working overdrive a la Kanye in 2015 with an expletive-ridden performance from Skepta. The grime song was supposed to be in defence of the genre’s bad reputation but with a mostly muted turn, the message got lost in translation.
Coldplay teamed up with EDM hot shots Chainsmokers to debut their collaboration, Something Just Like This, in the psychedelic setting we’ve come to expect from the band. Man of the moment Ed Sheeran also took to the stage with not only one, but both of his recent singles, Castle on the Hill and Touch, the latter featuring a guest appearance by Stormzy.
It was a mixed bag with regards to the awards themselves, with some old pros bagging awards as well as some unexpected wins.
Sande, who last year returned to the pop fold with second album Long Live The Angels, beat out relative unknowns Nao, Anohni and Lianne La Havas and veteran Ellie Goulding to bag Best British Female. She sweetly took her sister Lucy up to the podium to collect the gong, dedicating it to her in the process.
The 1975, who last year scored number one albums on both sides of the Atlantic, deservedly beat Little Mix, Bastille, Biffy Clyro and Radiohead to British Band. Lead singer encouraged anyone with a platform to speak out and to “not stay in your lane.” David Bowie was given British Male in a no-contest category with Craig David, Kano, Skepta and Michael Kiwanuka. Michael C. Hall, who is starring in the Bowie musical Lazarus, accepted the posthumous award on the singer’s behalf.
British Breakthrough went to Rag n Bone Man, aka Rory Graham, who had earlier been awarded the Critic’s Choice award for 2017. He thanked his fans for the award in a touching speech and was genuinely buzzing to be gaining momentum, despite being “ten years deep” into his career.
One of the biggest awards of the night, British Single, went to Shoutout To My Ex by Little Mix, beating out big hitters like Zayn’s Pillowtalk and the unshakeable Rockabye by Clean Bandit. The moment echoed girl band predecessors Girls Aloud’s winning moment for the same award back in 2008. It was a hard-earned battle for the four-piece, previously topping charts around the world and breaking records set by a little-known pop group called The Spice Girls in the past few years.
Other big winners of the night included Drake, for International Male, Beyonce for International Female and in a big upset, A Tribe Called Quest for Internation Group. Adele bagged the Global Success gong but couldn’t attend the ceremony, so thanked fans via video message.
Following Adele’s tribute to the late George Michael at the Grammys earlier this month, Brits organisers also paid homage. George’s Wham! Bandmates Andrew Ridgley, Shirlie Kemp and Helen ‘Pepsi’ DeMacque gave a beautiful speech about their beloved friend, recalling the beginnings of the band and their relationship. They talked about his talent, his heart and his great kindness. “Anyone who asked for George’s help invariably got it.” The ladies of Wham! broke down in tears as they spoke. “I loved him,” said Andrew. “And in turn, we, you – have been loved.” Chris Martin gave a performance of A Different Corner, duetting with a video recording of the man himself. A lovely touch.
Robbie Williams closed proceedings with Heavy Entertainment Show/Love My Life and delivered a typically showy performance befitting the most decorated artist in Brits history. It wasn’t a vintage year, but it was better than it’s been in a long time – probably, since Williams was last on the stage.
Full list of winners:
British Female – Emeli Sande
British Male – David Bowie
British Group – The 1975
International Male – Drake
International Female – Beyonce
International Group – A Tribe Called Quest
British Single – Shoutout to My Ex, Little Mix
British Artist Video of the Year – History, One Direction
Mastercard British Album –
Global Success – Adele
Photos: Lia Toby, WENN, David Fisher, Shutterstock, REX, Matt Cossick, Empics Entertainment, ITV, Joel Ryan, Invision, AP, Jonathan Lipinski, BBC