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Brits 2017: How The Brits' Farewell To George Michael By Wham! And Chris Martin Was The Send-Off Every True Fan Wanted

23/02/2017 14:18 GMT | Updated 23/02/2017 15:34 GMT
Brian Rasic via Getty Images

It was always going to be a tall order - how to pay tribute at the Brits to one of this country's greatest ever singer-songwriters, an artist whose commercial acumen was matched by his taste when it came to marrying the demands of era-defining pop?

We'd seen Adele struggle with the weight of the burden at last week's Grammys, ultimately pulling off an acoustic version of his disco number 'Fastlove'.

But last night's Brits played host to George's home-grown crowd, the O2 venue only a few miles from where he grew up, and where he'd made his lifelong home. Whatever else George was, he was quintessentially British. They had to do him proud.

And they did. For a start, the people who spoke for him could never have been more fitting. His Wham! bandmates Andrew Ridgeley, Pepsi and Shirlie have not been giving interviews since he died on Christmas Day, they saved themselves for this, and it was all the more moving.

Because of George's decades of great solo success, it becomes easy to forget the foundation of friendship on which it was formed - first with his best school pal Andrew, and then with the girls who completed the party atmosphere that formed such an integral part of the band's appeal in the early 1980s.

While the three of them spoke of the music, it was the friendship they mourned. No wonder Shirlie had trouble getting through her words and her memories. Her pride, however, was evident - not just in her pal's talent, but also his kindness. Considering how his fans continue to mourn, what a huge gap these three must feel.

Then it was time for some music. George left a song for every mood, and last night's required the elegy of 'A Different Corner' - containing in it the sense of loss but also wonder that comes with arbitrary encounters that lead to friendships such as those described.

Was Chris Martin the right person? Yes, for so many reasons. First, the choice belonged to those close to George, and Pepsi explained afterwards, "George always loved his voice."

Secondly, love or loathe Coldplay, Chris Martin remains one of the leading singer-songwriters of his generation, just like George - someone else who whose pop impulses are underpinned with the always authentic need to express and share.

Thirdly, his voice didn't compete with George's. It wasn't a sing-off, but two complementary tones that could both be heard, a tribute from new to old. Chris Martin did his bit, it wasn't perfect, but that made it sweeter. And it meant he left the best, most magical bits for George himself, whose power we felt all over again.

Meanwhile, the video footage was a mixture of George delighting in stadium approval, posing for videos but also running around with his friends, his two worlds combined - the popular and the personal. It was everything his Wham! bandmates had been speaking of, that combination of global success and individual warmth, fandom and friendship, the likes of which we may not see again, but whose memory will clearly be safeguarded by those he left behind.