Air Canada Centre, Toronto
May 18, 2011
By Anupa Mistry
A stadium show, Adele Adkins’s very first, was unexpected but warranted for the bona fide British pop star. Though the bowl was halved to provide a more intimate, accessible performance, it couldn’t contain the magnitude of Adele’s transformation from round-the-way every-girl to polished yet vulnerable star.
Adele has described her new record, 21, as being much more country-influenced than her previous Grammy-winning girl soul debut, 19. So it only made sense that the show began with fans — men, women, young, old — trickling in to a pre-show, tone-setting playlist of jangly Southern soul with dashes of hazy, guitar-driven roots reggae. With the spotlight on her accompanying pianist, Adele opened with a few bars of early chart-topper “Hometown Glory” from offstage, before stepping out to deafening cheers for the rest. Her current look — a simple dress with a strong silhouette, bouffant hair, heels so she’s taller than tall — meets the expectations of exploding success, but her silly, girlish and, at times, hilariously foul banter belies the realness that so many relate to.
Bright flashes from cameras polka-dotted the air as Adele, in good spirits and apparently hoarse from a rowdy karaoke session the night before, ran through most of 21: “I’ll Be Waiting,” “Don’t You Remember,” “Turning Tables” and the night’s first upbeat arrival “Set Fire to the Rain.” Chatting and joking between songs, she revealed her appreciation for the “dirty R&B” of Toronto’s the Weeknd, an inherited love of the Cure (before launching into her bossa nova take on “Love Song”), and an on-the-road passion for country blues (evidenced in a cover of the Steeldrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love”).
These songs were clearly designed to get Adele stadium status; her presence is commanding and the melodies soar. But, at points, a booming sound system muddled the vocals and the inviting, fan-driven nature of her celebrity means sitting around watching isn’t as satisfying an experience as it could be. Still, her charm and effortless, gut-wrenching talent strips any expectations for a “show” you might have. And in the end, a triple-threat ending — Bob Dylan cover “Make You Feel My Love,” automatic tearjerker “Someone Like You” and anthemic “Rolling in the Deep” — brought the stands to their feet anyway.