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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Adele review – a truly singular blend of talent and Tottenham charm | Adele

Adele’s first line, “Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet,” carries extra weight tonight. It’s five years to the day since the singer cancelled two Wembley Stadium shows due to damaged vocal cords and retreated from the public eye. This is her first full public concert anywhere in the world since then, so she takes nothing for granted. When 65,000 people sing the chorus to Someone Like You, there is a distinct possibility that she will melt down to a puddle of tears. “You sounded bloody lovely,” she says.

Adele remains a unique proposition: a torch singer who specialises in ballads about shredded hearts (“I don’t have many uptempo bangers”) yet chats away between them like a beloved family friend who always brings wine. You might imagine that five more years in Los Angeles and a swerve towards old Hollywood glamour had changed her to some extent. At the start of the show everything looks gold, her hair and jewellery chiming with the stage décor and the evening sunlight. But as soon as she starts talking it’s as if she never left Tottenham. She natters about Billie Eilish, Stranger Things, sciatica and forgetting lyrics, offers to buy one 18-year-old fan a birthday drink and swears with jolly gusto. “My son’s here tonight,” she says, “so cover your ears, baby.”

Compared to Adele’s last tour, this production has more class than flash. There are simple but effective visual motifs on the high-definition screens and, towards the end, the classic troika of confetti, flames and fireworks, but most of the time the primary visual spectacle is Adele’s face. Her records give no hint as to how much fun she has on stage. There are moments when she rolls her eyes or sticks out her tongue like a tipsy fan rather than a performer, finding pockets of hilarity in songs that would seem to offer none. She talks about playing “a good old set” and calls Send My Love (To Your New Lover) “a little jig”.

Adele performing in Hyde Park.
Adele performing in Hyde Park. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Adele

All this informality and self-deprecation means that her vocal artistry sometimes hits like an ambush: the barnstorming roar of Rolling in the Deep, the Bond melodrama of Skyfall, the perfectly controlled tenderness of Make You Feel My Love. One minute she is tucking her microphone into her cleavage and firing T-shirts into the audience; the next she is waist-deep in her divorce on Easy on Me. Fans may be used to this unusual dichotomy by now – imagine if Aretha Franklin had been a regular on EastEnders – but it takes an exceptional combination of charm and talent to pull it off.

For two hours a spirit of giddy celebration sweeps across Hyde Park. Somewhere in the crowd, one woman alternates between shuddering with sobs and wielding a wine bottle as if it were a microphone. That right there is the Adele experience.

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