Andrew Ridgeley, Michael’s former Wham! band-mate, led the encomiums to Michael, while Bowie’s son, the film maker Duncan Jones, collected one of two posthumous awards for the singer on Wednesday evening.
Jones made a powerful speech praising Bowie as someone who stood up for and gave a voice to outsiders, and said he would try to pass this legacy on to his own child.
He said: "I lost my dad last year but also became a dad. I was spending a lot of time after getting over the shock trying to work out what I want my son to know about his granddad.
“And I think it would be the same thing most of my dad’s fans have taken over the years, that he’s always been there supporting people who think they’re a little bit weird or strange or different. He’s always been there for them, so this award is for all the kooks and all the people who make the kooks."
Jones later wrote on Twitter: "I did forget one little bit of the speech though.... F**k cancer. F**k it right off the planet."
The sombre tone was reinforced when Ridgeley delivered a moving paean to Michael, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances on Christmas Day. He was joined by the band's former backing singers, Helen "Pepsi" DeMacque & Shirlie Holliman (always known as Pepsi and Shirlie to Wham! Aficionados) who struggled to control their emotions.
Sharing a series of anecdotes from their early years growing up in north London, Ridgeley said: “We were two boys who shared a love of life-affirming music and a sense that we understood it... His is a legacy of unquestionable brilliance which will continue to shine and resonate for generations to come. George has left in his songs, in the transcendent beauty of his voice, and in the poetic expression of his soul, the very best of himself. I loved him, and in turn we, you, have been loved."
Following the emotional testimonials Chris Martin took the stage, harmonising with vintage video footage of George Michael for a moving performance of, "A Different Corner."
The traditional In Memoriam segment reflected the extraordinary toll that 2016 took on the music world, featuring, in addition to Bowie and Michael, music from Prince, Pete Burns, Viola Beach, Glen Frey and Leonard Cohen.
Katy Perry’s performance featured a routine portraying Donald Trump and Theresa May as giant dancing skeletons.
However the political message was eclipsed after one of Perry’s dancers, dressed as a house, toppled off the stage, quickly becoming known on Twitter as the ‘new Left Shark’.