The Brit Awards were back with a bang on Tuesday night, marking a glittering return of live music to the O2 arena.
A beehive-sporting Dua Lipa and crop top wearing Olly Alexander were among the big names gracing the red carpet, as viewers watched their favourite stars perform on stage for the first time in more than a year.
As a pilot event for the post-Covid era, the 4,000-strong audience were able to enjoy the show without masks or social distancing, with many enjoying a dance and a drink as the rest of us watched from home.
And there was plenty to watch, with flamboyant outfits, hilarious speeches and surprise appearances packing the hotly anticipated spectacle.
Here, we take a look at some of the biggest moments of the night – and how viewers responded to them.
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Jack Whitehall on Piers Morgan and other top takedowns
The night’s host used his platform to make a series of obligatory digs at celebs, because what else are compères for?
The comedian returned for his fourth time MCing the event and didn’t hold back on the jibes.
Kicking things off, he said: “I can’t tell you how grateful we are to be here tonight for the first live event back in the O2 Arena.
“Yes, this venue has been emptier than Piers Morgan’s diary.”
He continued: “Covid’s had more comebacks than Craig David but this evening we look forward to a brighter future.
“No more puzzles, no more Zoom quizzes, we have got an audience, we have got dancers, we have got pop stars. We are back.”
Whitehall dished out a constant supply of celebrity digs
Among his victims were One Direction Star Niall Horan and Laurence Fox, while he even managed to slip in references to Professor Chris Whitty and Colin the Caterpillar.
On the 1D heartthrob, he said: “To ensure a reduced capacity we billed this as a Niall Horan gig."
And on the thwarted London mayoral hopeful, he said: “The music industry has had it tough this year, but there have been some good news stories… Laurence Fox’s tragic foray into politics that meant at least he’s finally stopped making music."
And what do Taylor Swift and a insect-themed chocolate cake have in common?
Whitehall had the answer: “I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he announced, “but the undisputed Queen of Pop is in attendance. She’s been ripped off more times than Colin the Caterpillar, but she’s come out swinging.”
The man sure knows how to ruffle some feathers, but plenty of people were loving it:
Jack Whitehall taking the mick out of Piers Morgan is already the best bit #BRITs— Owen (@Owen) 1620761086
Me when Jack Whitehall mentioned Colin the Caterpillar. #BRITs https://t.co/LVQjZQXmpc— BYOB (@BYOB) 1620760944
Jack Whitehall taking the mic out of Piers Morgan is my favourite thing #BRITs https://t.co/mbNzupFFoN— Belle Harris (@Belle Harris) 1620760391
Absolute honour to have hosted the Brits for a 4th time. That one felt extra special after the year we’ve had. Than… https://t.co/I6z7iC3iYZ— Jack Whitehall (@Jack Whitehall) 1620773190
Dua Lipa just generally smashing it
Dua Lipa dropped jaws from the moment she arrived, sporting a golden Vivienne Westwood dress and towering beehive hair-doo in an apparent nod to that other British icon: Amy Winehouse.
She went on to win two of the biggest gongs of the night: for best female solo artist and best album.
The 25-year-old used her two speeches to call for a pay rise for NHS workers and her second to demand a posthumous bravery award for 20-year-old Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole, who recently died after jumping into the River Thames to save a woman.
Suffice it to say, fans were left totally in awe of theFuture Nostalgia singer.
Dua paying homage to Amy Winehouse on the #BRITs red carpet ❤️ Legends only. https://t.co/LMhkPOX70t— British GLAMOUR (@British GLAMOUR) 1620751705
@EAnionwu @DUALIPA This has made my heart swell. You deserve the recognition 🙌🏾💜— Chinonyerem Odimba (@Chinonyerem Odimba) 1620802318
Jackie Weaver teaming up with the Line of Duty cast
The UK’s favourite parish council star teamed up with the cast of its top crime thriller for a sketch that left people clapping with glee.
Whitehall kicked off the ceremony with the skit which saw him sitting down to a Zoom call with Martin Compston and Vicky McClure (that’s Steve Arnott and Kate Fleming to LOD fans.)
When Compton told Whitehall: “It’s time to roll out the big guns,” the comedian replied “Mother of God, they’re bringing out the gaffer” – in a tribute to the one and only Ted Hastings.
So who was the “gaffer” in question? (No, not H.) It was none other than Handforth parish council behemoth Jackie Weaver.
And yes, she had the authority to bring the awards to “order”.
Olly Alexander and Elton John’s powerful duet
Weaver and the LOD crew weren’t the only stars to collaborate on the night.
Olly Alexander and Sir Elton John wowed viewers with a stunning version of Pet Shop Boys track It’s A Sin.
The Years And Years frontman, decked out in a tiger print two-piece, lounged across Sir Elton’s piano, before the disco beats kicked in and the pair were joined by a troupe of drag queens.
Their version of the 1980s hit was inspired by the Channel 4 TV series of the same name, which stars Alexander and explores the HIV/Aids crisis in 1980s London.
For many watching, it was the true highlight of the night:
this gave me the same feeling i got watching lady gaga growing up 🥰🌈 it feels so good to know that young lgbtq+ kid… https://t.co/XyKVSUiU23— SMASHBY 🏳️🌈 (@SMASHBY 🏳️🌈) 1620802875
#ItsASin 100% needs to be made into a musical & I need tickets to see it. https://t.co/qY0THEc1OU— Suzie Hill (@Suzie Hill) 1620803021
Olly Alexander and Elton John wow just wow at the Brit awards #OllyAlexander #eltonjohn #ItsASin— wendyannewilson (@wendyannewilson) 1620803165
#ItsASin the impact of this series...wow. https://t.co/wMlKevhrTt— Michelle Owusu (@Michelle Owusu) 1620802754
Surprise presenter from across the pond
While most of the night’s stars were there at the arena in person, one surprise cameo popped up via video call.
Michella Obama attended the ceremony online to present The Weeknd with the International Male Solo Artist award.
The former first lady hailed the Canadian pop star (real name Abel Makkonen Tesfaye), for donating millions to Covid Relief and Black Lives Matter, and to victims of violence in Ethiopia and survivors of the Lebanon explosion.
And while people joined in her praise for theBlinding Lights singer, many were more focussed the appearance of the White House icon herself.
Michelle Obama???? Michelle OBAMA?? Am I having a fever dream? #BRITs— Rachel McGrath (@Rachel McGrath) 1620764271
OMG *THE* Michelle Obama presenting an award. Are we at the right party?#Brits https://t.co/jMh3dPmkAX— British GLAMOUR (@British GLAMOUR) 1620764369
the brits recognising Abels talent and then MICHELLE OBAMA saying a beautiful speech about him !! Love to see it https://t.co/Z1YSsNfpSk— J A Y A 𝕏𝕆🌅 (@J A Y A 𝕏𝕆🌅) 1620764703
Jackie Weaver and Michelle Obama on the same bill. #Brits— Nick Walker (@Nick Walker) 1620764237
Only on British TV could you go from Michelle Obama to the group of sea shanty lads in about five seconds #BRITs— SHANE REACTION (@SHANE REACTION) 1620764383
Little Mix making history
Little Mix made history as the first female group to win the best British group prize.
During their speech, the group – which is now made up of Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards – thanked their former bandmate Jesy Nelson.
Nelson quit in December after saying the high-profile role had “taken a toll” on her mental health.
The trio – two of whom have recently announced that they are pregnant – also took the opportunity to call out some injustices.
"It’s not easy being a female in the UK pop industry," Pinnock (one of the two expectant mothers) said.
"We’ve seen white male dominance, misogyny, sexism and lack of diversity. We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood our ground, surrounded ourselves with strong women, and are now using our voices more than ever."
Thirlwall (the non-pregnant one) added: "The fact that a girl band has never won this award really does speak volumes, so this award isn’t just for us, it’s for the Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud, all of the incredible female bands. This one’s for you."
The poignant moment was celebrated across social media, as admirers – including the Spice Girls themselves – praised the band for their well-deserved success.
"We want to start by thanking our incredible fans, of course Jesy, and our amazing team." @LittleMix pick up the Br… https://t.co/LT8PgttwYm— BRIT Awards (@BRIT Awards) 1620761439
DESERVED 👏🏼👏🏼❤️❤️ @LittleMix https://t.co/mJClORxcD5— Nathan Dawe (@Nathan Dawe) 1620762445
Congratulations @LittleMix Doing it for the Girls!! ✌🏻#BRITs #GirlPower— Spice Girls (@Spice Girls) 1620761678
Congrats to 2/3 of @LittleMix moms-to-be #PerrieEdwards and #LeighAnnePinnock!!! 👼👼 My ❤️ is so full is gonna 💥 https://t.co/tTNHt62dm4— MTV EMA (@MTV EMA) 1620684540
Haim beating BTS
The international group award proved a little more controversial this year as K-pop fans shared their indignation at seeing BTS lose out.
The gong went to sisters Este, Danielle and Alana of US group HAIM, who later celebrated over a drink with their pal, fellow award-winner, Tylor swift.
The proud winners were quick to share their support for boyband BTS:
WE LOVE @bts_bighit— HAIM (@HAIM) 1620774287
But that wasn’t enough to console some devastated ARMY faithfuls:
ARMYs watching the BRITs like: #BTS #BRITs https://t.co/cRVeS59xUm— Jess • Jintellectual⁷ 🎣💜✨ (@Jess • Jintellectual⁷ 🎣💜✨) 1620759562
However, some took the news a little more graciously:
Still, super proud of you @BTS_twt! The first Korean Act to be nominated for a #BRITs 💖— keci⁷⁺¹ | (kinda ia) (@keci⁷⁺¹ | (kinda ia)) 1620765274
Newly crowned #Brits award winner @HAIMtheband, a pop rock trio out of LA (who happen to all be sisters as well) re… https://t.co/UN6S2qS7bE— BTS V News | CHRISTMAS TREE BY V OUT NOW (@BTS V News | CHRISTMAS TREE BY V OUT NOW) 1620769643
Even though BTS didn't get the Award this year, They're still the first Korean /Asian act to ever be nominated at t… https://t.co/E7RZoW1x8W— TGIM (@TGIM) 1620808256
Lewis Capaldi being muted during foulmouthed ‘rant’
Lewis Capaldi might be known for his passionate ballads, but he’s never afraid to take the tone down a notch.
The chart-topper appeared before the crowd to present the final prize of the night to Dua Lip, for her record Future Nostalgia.
But the Scottish star soon descended into a light-hearted but sweary rant aimed at the audience, viewers at home and himself.
Soon a mute sign appeared as Capaldi was repeatedly silenced by the show organisers, in an apparent nod to the common experience on video-calling platforms.
After continuing his foul-mouthed speech, which came after the TV watershed, he added: ‘Hello Brit Awards! That’s where we are. I’m really sorry, I’m reading off a card here. How is everyone doing?”
His fiery turn proved shocking to some viewers, though most people just lapped it up:
lewis capaldi coming onto stage to announce the award and swear so much that the entire of his speech is muted is s… https://t.co/MEbdYaQkGM— lau (@lau) 1620767439
The show producers every time Lewis Capaldi is given a microphone. #brits2021 https://t.co/hBx1SGKjvg— Lisa (@Lisa) 1620767441
THE WAY LEWIS CAPALDI NEVER DISAPPOINTS https://t.co/C8hWXlQr4s— , (@,) 1620768540
lewis capaldi saving the brit awards like he saved the music industry🤝 #brits2021 https://t.co/xFgJGbzgD7— isabel (@isabel) 1620768684
Trying to lip read Lewis Capaldi because #brits2021 think they have to mute the audio after 10pm #BRITS https://t.co/46QyZ2ZRTQ— Joe (@Joe) 1620767497
Fill in the blanks for Lewis Capaldi #AudioMuted #Brits https://t.co/2UKmuds71B— Tim Gatt (@Tim Gatt) 1620767466
Basically sums up Lewis Capaldi’s speech at the brits https://t.co/XeQIn6FKtR— Molly Dunne (@Molly Dunne) 1620768193
Of course, the night was filled with plenty more headline-grabbing moments, including Taylor Swift’s historic victory and rapper Headie One’s dig at the Government.
Swift told up-and-coming musicians there is “no career path that comes free of negativity” as she accepted the global icon award – becoming the first woman to be awarded the prize.
Your BRITs Global Icon @taylorswift13 ✨ #BRITs https://t.co/vpUBLKCmL9— BRIT Awards (@BRIT Awards) 1620766771
Elsewhere, Londoner Headie One delivered the biggest performance of the night with a rendition of his hit Ain’t It Different alongside fellow Brit nominee AJ Tracey.
The 26-year-old included a new verse about Marcus Rashford’s free school meals push and challenged the negative public perception of drill music.
Headie one live performance at the @BRITs 👏🎙 https://t.co/d2aLXa5E9O— MTMEDIA.UK (@MTMEDIA.UK) 1620807194
Coldplay also delivered a performance of their new single Higher Power from a pontoon on the River Thames, surrounded by hologram dancers and against a backdrop of purple and orange fireworks.
Awards show opener 101: Have world's biggest band @coldplay perform Higher Power in the middle of the Thames...with… https://t.co/5hQ9QaB96F— BRIT Awards (@BRIT Awards) 1620760057
And Billie Eilish saw off competition from artists including Cardi B and Swift to win the international female solo artist gong.
We miss you @billieeilish!!! Huge congrats 🎉 #BRITs https://t.co/iaLSWkBkXl— BRIT Awards (@BRIT Awards) 1620762702
Meanwhile, Arlo Parks said it was her “dream come true” to be named breakthrough artist.
Massive congrats to @arloparks for taking home the Breakthrough Artist award!! Now go celebrate 🍾 #BRITs https://t.co/Mf2LF8hNcI— BRIT Awards (@BRIT Awards) 1620760561
It was certainly a night to remember.