By Jemima Kelly
LONDON (Reuters) - British singer Adele stole the show on Wednesday evening at the 2016 BRIT Awards in London, making a triumphant return to the star-studded ceremony as she picked up four trophies, including the coveted "album of the year" award.
The BRIT Awards, held in London's O2 arena, are the mainstream British music industry's most prestigious awards ceremony, having been held every year since 1982. On the bill at this year's bash were international stars Rihanna and Justin Bieber, as well as home-grown artists James Bay and Coldplay.
Adele's "25" album missed out on a Grammy nomination because its November release date made it ineligible for this year's awards, so the BRITs gave the British songstress her first major award show recognition for her third studio album, which became the best-selling album of 2015.
"To come back after so long away and be so warmly received is really lovely – thank you so much," said Adele, dressed in a floor-length red gown, as she picked up her first award of the night for best British female. Her previous album, "21", was released four years earlier.
The London-born singer also scooped awards for best British female, best British single, and the "BRITs Global Success" award. She was the only artist or group to receive more than one award at the ceremony.
After a shaky and out-of-key performance at the Grammys earlier in the month, after which Adele said she cried all day, she closed the show with an accomplished rendition of "When We Were Young", a song from "25", having changed into a star-spangled glittery gown before her performance.
Adele also said she wanted to "publicly support" American pop star Kesha, who alleges that her former music producer, "Dr. Luke", raped and emotionally manipulated her. Dr. Luke, whose real name is Lukasz Gottwald, denies the allegations.
A judge ruled last week that Kesha could not be released from her six-album recording contract with Sony Music.
The late British rock star David Bowie, who died last month, was paid an emotional tribute by Scottish singer Annie Lennox, who called Bowie a "quintessential visionary" who would be "loved and revered for as long as the earth still spins".
Bowie's friend, British actor Gary Oldman, picked up a posthumous "BRIT Icon" award for the singer, while New Zealand's Lorde performed Bowie's hit song "Life on Mars".
The ceremony, which mainly recognizes British music, also saw international awards handed out to Justin Bieber, Tame Impala and Bjork.
The awards have come under fire for not representing non-white artists, just as the Oscars ceremony has. Black British singer Laura Mvula said she would not attend the ceremony, citing the lack of diversity, and "#BritsSoWhite" was trending on Twitter.
"It is a shame," guitarist Joff Oddie from BRIT-nominated band Wolf Alice told Reuters on the red carpet before the show. "You look through the nominations and there is not one...British black person nominated. That isn't representative."
Barbados-born Rihanna marked her first performance on British soil since 2012 with a raunchy performance of "Work", her new song with Drake, which featured a surprise appearance from the Canadian rapper.
There were also performances on the night by Britain's James Bay, who was awarded best British male, and Justin Bieber, who was awarded best international male. Bieber performed an acoustic version of his song "Love Yourself" with James Bay before running onto the main stage to perform his hit "Sorry" with a troupe of backing dancers.
British group Coldplay had kicked off proceedings with their song "Hymn for the Weekend", and also picked up the award for best British group.
(Reporting by Jemima Kelly; Additional reporting by Holly Rubenstein)