Lorde joined the Brit Awards on Wednesday for an emotional tribute to David Bowie. The rock star passed away in early January, just days after releasing his final album Blackstar and, as Bowie friend Gary Oldman noted in his poignant intro speech, called Lorde “the future of music.”
The tribute launched with a spotlight signifying an empty spot on the stage as the opening lines of Bowie’s original “Space Oddity” recording were played. Bowie’s backing band from his last tour in 2003 — bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, pianist Mike Garson, drummer Sterling Campbell, keyboardist Catherine Russell and guitarists Earl Slick and Gerry Leonard — began to play a medley of the singer’s work as footage from music videos was projected.
The band remained onstage as Lorde joined them to perform a faithful cover of “Life on Mars?” while bathed in red light. The young performer ended her performance clutching her heart as the audience gave her a standing ovation.
The Brit Awards are set to air on Fuse on Wednesday night at 8:30 pm ET.
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Lorde penned a touching tribute to Bowie following his death where she referred to the star as her “hero” and recalled the time she met him at a 2013 benefit honoring Tilda Swinton. “That night, something changed in me — I felt a calmness grow, a sureness,” she explained. “I think in those brief moments, he heralded me into my next new life, an old rock and roll alien in a perfect grey suit.”
Prior to Lorde’s performance, Annie Lennox gave an impassioned speech to the Brit Awards audience about Bowie’s significance and influence on music and culture. Lennox and Gary Oldman accepted Bowie’s Brit Icon award on his behalf during the ceremony. “For me, it’s almost impossible to mention Bowie’s name in the past tense,” she said. “Everything he represented as an artist was and always will be vital and incredibly present.”