Record-breaking star Adele took the first of the honours at tonight’s Brit Awards as she landed the best female artist prize.
The 23-year-old – up for three prizes – looked delighted by her success and shrieked: “Oh my Gawd.”
She beat stars such as Jessie J and Kate Bush to pick up the prize at London’s O2 Arena.
Collecting the award from Kylie Minogue, she joked: “I feel like a drag queen next to you.
“It’s been an amazing year. Thank you. I’d like to thank my record company for letting me be the kind of artist I want to be.”
Dozens of the biggest stars in the music business have gathered at the arena in south-east London to celebrate the most important night in the UK music calendar.
Adele’s success continues the prize-winning run that started little over a week ago when she collected six trophies at the Grammys in the US.
Coldplay kicked off the show with their track Charlie Brown, performing in the round, shortly followed by a performance by Florence + The Machine on a stage decked with Greek columns.
Earlier Florence had arrived at the event wearing a peach coloured gown created by Sarah Burton, who designed the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress last April.
But she changed into a mini-dress by the time she took the stage.
Show host James Corden asked guests to take a moment to remember “the great, the unique” Whitney Houston, who died earlier this month.
Bruno Mars picked up the title of best international male act, and told guests: “It’s been my dream to come here.”
The Grenade singer assured fans: “I’ll be back soon with a second album.”
One Direction pulled off a surprise by landing the best British single for What Makes You Beautiful, ahead of Adele's Someone Like You - the track which relaunched her career at last year's Brits.
The X Factor heartthrobs – who came third in the ITV1 contest – landed the prize in a public vote.
The group dedicated the award to their fans, with singer Harry Styles adding: “Everything we do is for you, and this is yours.”
Rihanna – wearing an elegant gold dress with a plunging neckline – took the best international female title for the second year running. And the Barbadian singer – whose hits include We Found Love – also dedicated her prize to the fans.
“At times when I feel misunderstood, my fans remind me that it’s OK to be myself,” she told the audience.
The Brit Awards often throw up memorable collaborations and this year Coldplay frontman Chris Martin joined Noel Gallagher’s band High Flying Birds. Martin joined his pal by playing piano on the track AKA What A Life.
Ed Sheeran beat acts such as Noel Gallagher, James Morrison and Professor Green to the title of best British male.
The red-haired singer – who played his hit Lego House at the ceremony – said: “I honestly didn’t think I’d get this one, so I’d just like to say thanks to my family, my friends, my fans, every single promoter that’s ever booked me, every single radio DJ that’s every played me and my label. I’m really bad at this.”
Coldplay took the best group title for the third time, following wins in 2001 and 2003. It was their seventh Brit in total.
Collecting the prize, Chris Martin said it was “humbling” to win. And he praised the awards themselves: “We’ve been doing the Brits since before most of you were born. It was terrible then and it’s amazing now.”
Adele made a show-stopping return to the Brits with her first UK performance since voice-saving surgery on her vocal cords.
She underwent the operation in the US in November and has been recovering since then, apart from an appearance at the Grammys just days ago.
The black-clad singer, wearing a Burberry dress, gave a dramatic rendition of her hit Rolling In The Deep from her chart-topping album 21 which is expected to break through the four million sales barrier by the end of the week.
US rock act Foo Fighters picked up the best international group award - their third Brit after picking up international group and album in 2008.
In a recorded speech drummer Taylor Hawkins said the UK had been important in giving the band a break and said of the award: “We’ll cherish it forever.”
Sheeran picked up his second award of the night by collecting the prize for British breakthrough act.
He thanked his manager Stuart Camp who he said was responsible for turning the “spotty, chubby, ginger teenager into the person up here tonight”.
And he added: “You need a new sofa.”
Backstage One Direction joked that they were going to struggle with just one trophy between them.
The group’s Niall Horan said: “We have to break the award into five. Or we need to photocopy it.
And Styles said the group had their eye on a big name collaborator: “We would love to work with Adele.”
US singer Lana Del Rey collected the international breakthrough prize, beating Aloe Blacc and Bon Iver.
She appeared to be choking back tears as she said: “This award means much more to me than you know and I just want to say that without the support of everyone in this room and everyone in the UK, I’d really be lost. Thank you, I love you.”