7 Greatest BRIT Award performances

Jon O'Brien 31 January 2022

Ahead of the 2022 BRIT Awards on February 8, we take a look back at the best performances from the music industry's biggest, and often messiest, night

Spice Girls: “Wannabe”/”Who Do You Think You Are” (1997)

We have the sewing skills of Geri Halliwell’s sister and a Union Jack tea towel to thank for the ceremony’s most seminal moment—and the only BRITs performance to receive a BRIT Award itself.

Ginger Spice’s patriotic dress not only tapped in perfectly to the whole Cool Britannia vibes of the mid-1990s, it signified how the Spice Girls had put British pop music back on the global map in a manner not seen since The Beatles.

Their triumphant homecoming—a medley of their first and fourth UK number ones—may have been mimed, but even their biggest detractors had to acknowledge the sheer star power on display.

Kylie Minogue: “Can’t Get Blue Monday Out Of My Head” (2002)

Kylie Minogue’s remarkable career turnaround culminated in this immediately iconic BRIT Awards performance, staged on the same night she picked up both International Album and Female Solo Artist.

The robotic electro-pop of “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” had already attained modern classic status by this point, of course.

But the Aussie gave it an inspired new lease on life by embracing the burgeoning mash-up trend and borrowing the backing from another game-changer, New Order’s “Blue Monday.” The fact that she entered the stage while strapped to a giant shiny compact disc only heightened its retro-futuristic appeal.

Scissor Sisters: “Take Your Mama” (2005)

Having pipped Keane to the previous year’s biggest-selling album with their fabulous and flamboyant brand of glam-disco-pop-rock, Scissor Sisters were the no-brainer choice to open the 2005 BRIT Awards.

Led by a lederhosen and angel wings-clad Jake Shears, the American quintet certainly didn’t disappoint, roping in the legendary Jim Henson Productions team for an enjoyably ridiculous farmyard-themed rendition of “Take Your Mama.”

Singing watermelons, giant pink roosters, synchronised dancing eggs—the whole thing resembled a Muppet’s fever dream. But it was the kind of colourful, outlandish spectacle that the BRITs could do with more of.

Rihanna and Klaxons: “Umbrella”/”Golden Skans” (2008)

Texas and Method Man, Five and Queen, The KLF and Extreme Noise Terror. The BRIT Awards has welcomed several collaborations you’d never have envisioned in a month of Sundays.

The immaculate global superstar Rihanna and slightly shambolic nu-rave pioneers Klaxons joined that eclectic list in 2008 but in something of a rarity, also managed to make music that was listenable.

Indeed, despite the fact the Barbadian was unlikely to have heard of the trio beforehand (and probably hasn’t since), her mash-up of monster smash “Umbrella” with their signature hit “Golden Skans” worked surprisingly well, aided by a dazzling green laser display which made up for the lack of glow sticks.

Pet Shop Boys: Medley (2009)

It takes something pretty special to hold the inebriated BRITs crowd’s attention during the obligatory Outstanding Contribution to British Music performance.

But Pet Shop Boys had everyone transfixed for an entire ten minutes as they delved into their hit-packed back catalogue for a medley that included “West End Girls,” “Go West” and “Always On My Mind.”

Lady Gaga, then a relative newcomer, also popped up to perform the late Dusty Springfield’s parts on “What Have I Done to Deserve This” before The Killers’ Brandon Flowers joined in with the fun on a rousing rendition of “It’s A Sin.” This is how you close an awards show. 

Adele: “Someone Like You” (2011)

It seems unbelievable now but despite winning the BRITs Critics’ Choice, Adele was actually usurped by Duffy as 2008’s next big thing. However, with just one performance three years on, the Londoner instantly established herself as the world’s premier balladeer.

You could practically hear a pin drop inside the O2 Arena as Adele, accompanied by just a piano, delivered a spell-binding rendition of “Someone Like You.”

Audiences at home were left similarly awestruck, resulting in the heartbreak tale leaping 46 places to number one. From Sam Smith to Celeste, every powerhouse vocalist invited onto the BRITs stage has since tried to create their own Adele moment without ever coming close.

Dave: “Black”/”Freestyle” (2020)

The 2020 BRIT Awards undoubtedly belonged to the grime scene’s most ordinary-named talent thanks to both his Album of the Year win for Psychodrama and this hugely powerful half-freestyled rendition of its standout track “Black.”

Taking aim at everything from the press’ treatment of Meghan Markle to the government’s handling of the Grenfell tragedy, images of which were beamed onto a futuristic double piano, Dave’s protest against inequality was thrilling, thought-provoking and, at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was gathering significant momentum, incredibly timely.

Never has a BRITs standing ovation been more well-earned.

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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