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The 10 Most Memorable BRITs Live Performances

Yes they’re often cheesy. Sure, they’re relentlessly slick. Okay, there’s a whiff of the corporate about the whole thing. But the BRITs do occasionally produce some cracking live performances. As we anticipate this year’s ceremony on March 2, here’s 10 of the most memorable…

brits geri halliwell michael jackson amy winehouse
Source: Hottwire.net/WENN/Newscom / The Mega Agency

Geri, Jacko, Amy: now there's a dream dinner party guest list.

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Michael Jackson, “Earth Song”, 1996

Well, obviously. When the King of Pop took the stage for a typically overblown performance – complete with wind machines, smoke effects, footage of endangered wildlife and what appeared to be about 300 extras from Les Miserables – the nation was supposed to gaze in reverent awe. Thank god then, for Jarvis Cocker, who with a simple waft of his buttocks punctured all the pompous nonsense and elevated himself to national treasure status. (Catch him from the five minute mark.)

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Ed Sheeran, “Bloodstream”, 2015

Now bear with us here. Whatever else you think of little Ed, it takes a lot of balls – and a lot of talent – to command a stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar and a looper pedal. But this mesmeric, hypnotic, thrillingly live rendition of what is after all his best song shows just how effective those tools can be. Starting slow and building to a stunning climax, it’s nothing short of brilliant, actually.

Adele, “Someone Like You”, 2011

The story goes that before taking the stage for this performance, Adele was so nervous she broke down in tears – and the emotion is clear from the moment she hits the first note. Accompanied only by a piano, the whole thing is utterly spellbinding, and arguably marks the moment Ms Adkins became a genuine superstar. Is she welling up again at the end? She’s not the only one.

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Suede, ”Animal Nitrate”, 1993

If you think the BRITs are corporate now, cast your minds back to 1993, when it really was mostly a bunch of old men in suits there for the free dinner and mutual back-slapping… with the actual pop music just something to be endured along the way. So when Suede took the stage and smashed into a song that is, let’s face it, pure filth, the distaste among some of the older guests was almost palpable. The band’s obvious frustration at the state of the crowd energized them into delivering one of the angriest and most thrilling performances the awards have ever seen – and in a stroke paved the way for the Britpop revolution to follow.

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Amy Winehouse, “Valerie”, 2008

By 2008, Amy Winehouse’s personal troubles and tabloid tribulations were overshadowing her extraordinary talents as a singer and performer, but from the moment she shimmied onto the stage to join Mark Ronson at that year's ceremony she reminded us just who she really was – and what she was capable of. If the whole thing is two-and-a-half minutes of pure unabashed joy, the moment she cuts loose (at around the 1 minute 45 mark) is both completely wonderful and, given what would happen just three years later, pretty devastating.

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Wet Leg, “Chaise Longue”, 2023

A proper WTF moment from last year’s ceremony, this. The band who had come from nowhere (or at least, the Isle of Wight, which is about as close to nowhere as it gets) to not only release the best song of 2022 but also pick up BRIT gongs for Best New Artist and Group of the Year, chose to perform “Chaise Longue” on a stage packed with shrubbery, floaty dress-wearing Morris Dancers and a variety of people got up in animal costumes. Was the whole thing some kind of reference to The Wicker Man? Who knows? Did it actually work? Who knows?

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Lorde, “Life on Mars”, 2016

The climax to the BRITs’ 2016 tribute to David Bowie was a heartfelt – and intensely moving – performance by Lorde. Yes, she looks terrified, but her raw, emotional delivery of "Life on Mars" not only captures the beauty of the original, but adds a new level of intensity. Little wonder Bowie himself once described her as “the future of music”.

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The Spice Girls, “Wannabe” / “Who Do You Think You Are?”, 1997

Say what you like about Baby, Scary, Sporty, Posh and Ginger, but in 1996 – even as Britpop was swallowed by the mainstream – they were the real story. After dominating the charts that year, at the 1997 ceremony they channelled all of that success into a triumphant, exuberant BRITs mash-up performance. So much so that Geri’s Union Jack dress (supposedly made by stitching a couple of tea-towels together) became in itself an iconic symbol for British music at that time.

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Prince, medley, 2006

The return of the maestro was both unexpected and spectacular. After years of legal wranglings, inexplicable name changes and general “experimentation”, Prince held nothing back for his 12-minute show at the 2006 ceremony, playing a medley of hits including "Purple Rain", "Fury" and "Let’s Go Crazy" – and reminded everyone just what it was to be in the presence of genius. And to follow? Only a 21-night sold-out stint at the O2.

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Florence + The Machine and Dizzee Rascal, “You Got the Love”, 2010

Dizzee Rascal, Florence Welch, and a whole load of harpists doesn’t sound like the most obvious ingredients for a belting live collaboration, but through a mixture of Dizzee’s infectious energy, Florence’s sheer class, and – well, it wasn’t clear how much of a contribution the harpists really did make, to be honest – it somehow became just about the best of the BRITs much-touted collaborations. Should have had the lad rapping on the song all along, if you ask me.

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