The awards show, aired live on ITV1, was opened by U2 performing its new single "Get on Your Boots." Bono sang on a platform in front of a giant screen showing images of the British union flag and the Irish flag.
Nashville rock band Kings Of Leon won the international group award as well as the international album BRIT for "Only by the Night" (Hand Me Down/Sony Music Entertainment). The current Billboard cover stars acknowledged the importance of the British market to their success.
"Thank you, God, thank you, mom, thank you U.K.," drummer Nathan Followill told the audience. "Without y'all, we would be nothing." "If it weren't for England, Kings Of Leon wouldn't be a band right now," added singer and guitarist Caleb Followill.
Elbow was something of a surprise in the British group category, beating Coldplay, whose "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" (Parlophone/EMI) was the biggest global seller of 2008, according to the IFPI, with sales of 6.8 million.
Katy Perry beat Beyonce, Gabriella Cilmi, Pink and Santigold for the international female award. The Virgin/EMI recording artist also hinted that she had been tipped off about her win. "I'm so sick right now," she told the cheering crowd. "But they said I should show up to the BRITS because something special might happen."
The British single award, decided by mobile phone voting, was won by girl group Girls Aloud for "The Promise" (Fascination/Polydor).
The ceremony was presented by Australian pop singer Kylie Minogue and comedy actor James Corden. Reformed boy band Take That performed on a UFO-style platform above the crowd, which then descended into the middle of the room. Other performers included Girls Aloud, Coldplay (who went home empty-handed) and rock duo the Ting Tings with Estelle.
The Pet Shop Boys received the outstanding contribution to music honor, and were duo was joined by Lady GaGa and the Killers' Brandon Flowers during their closing performance.