South Londoner Adele may have left her teenage years behind the night before opening at London’s Shepherd Bush Empire but that youthful, bubbly, nave, playful and cute chanteuse who caused the UK’s music media to froth and foam at the turn of the year shows no signs of sudden change.
Just five months ago Adele’s smoky vocals and cockney-pop-soul tones made her a smash with the critics, winning the suddenly-created ‘Critics Choice’ Brit Award, which in turn helped propel her to the top of the singles and album charts.
19 went platinum, but all the while the little girl behind the music seems somehow to have kept her feet on the ground.
This was to be her biggest show to date and she pattered out from the wings exclaiming how nervous she was. “I feel like I’m going to cry, I’m so scared,” she gushed. Her self-deprecation and openbanter with the band and folk in the front row, screamers in the back row and yellers in the balcony reminded us repeatedly how genuinely grateful she was that everyone had come to see her.
Despite the gushing and nerves she performed in full voice. For Daydreamer and Melt My Heart To Stone she sang without the band and played alone with a guitar. Her jazzy intonations filled the auditorium and testified to the power of her voice.
She ran the first half with poppier numbers. The third single Cold Shoulder had the stalls bouncing along. Despite its title, Tired was terrific, bright with a sumptuous addition of a live string quartet. The second half was tamer and focused on jazz-infused heartbreak and home life.
Noisier, frenetic members of the audience caused Adele to corpse momentarily but she thankfully was controlled, kept her composure and had the audience captivated again for the maturely delivered First Love and the poignant Hometown Glory.
Croydon’s BRITs school has exceeded itself and the Brit Pack, including Leona Lewis, Katie Melua, Kate Nash and high priestess Amy Winehouse, are storming forward. But where Amy has been surrounded by violence and narcotic allegation Adele happily sips a cup of tea on stage and isn’t remotely harried by the industry’s demands of conformity. Perhaps this is one other reason why she can go the distance.
There are hints of this timeless aspect to her when she pays tribute to heroes and fellow musicians by performing covers in her inimitable style. Etta James‘s Fool That I Am, Bob Dylan‘s Make You Feel My Love (dedicated to her grandmother) and The Coral‘s Dreaming Of You all testimony to a lack of her own material at this stage of her career, but her treatments of all three underlined that Adele is well able to build on her already stunning success.