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Adele At Radio City Music Hall 2015: Review

Adele (courtesy of Columbia Records, PR)

Adele (courtesy of Columbia Records, PR)


It was a big welcome back for Adele who made her first concert apperarance in four years with a powerhouse set of hits and soon-to-be hits from her forthcoming album, 25, at New York's Radio City Music Hall last night, November 17.

The 27-year-old singer said that playing this legendary venue made it a "bucket list show" and—no surprise—she filled the massive space with her voice, her glamour, and her charming sense of humor.

I first met Adele in the spring of 2008 at a WFUV session not long after the release of her debut album, 19. At that time, she was a bit of a self-doubting artist, telling me about her uncertainty about her career, the challenges of writing songs, and how she never thought she had the goods to be a star. Then she performed in Studio A and we all knew that the world would soon discover this voice and talent.

Millions of downloaded albums and singles later, Adele's Radio City Music Hall concert was a triumph. Jimmy Fallon, decked out in a tux, was the MC for the show, which was taped for a NBC special, "Adele Live In New York City," airing on December 14. He said "hello" in a various languages—a reference to her current smash single "Hello"—and then introduced Adele, who opened her set with that very song.

Adele looked stunning, dressed in a gorgeous, embellished gown by UK designer Jenny Packham, with her hair piled high, elegant makeup, and the biggest eyelashes I've ever seen. She was backed by a band that included piano, guitars, bass, drums (two drummers, in fact), and two backing singers.

There is an unexpected charm to Adele as her humor and off-the-cuff banter between songs is so casual. There was much cussing, she removed her high heels after the second song, made flatulence jokes, and even led the audience in a rousing "Happy Birthday" to a big fan near the front of the stage. She was nervous, especially at the start, and cried real tears at the close of the show. This humanity, shorn of typical pop star gloss, is what makes Adele such an interesting star.

The dramatic high point of the show was "Skyfall," the song from the 2012 James Bond film. A 20-piece string section rose up behind Adele and a choir joined in. It was hard to believe this was only the second time she's performed this song live. She introduced one of my favorites from her debut album, "Chasing Pavements" as the song that "changed my life" and credited "Saturday Night Live" with giving her an early big break. I spotted several former SNL cast members in the audience too, like Tina Fey and Bill Murray. It's funny since "SNL" also infamously parodied her hit, "Someone Like You," which also was a game changer for Adele and a high point, sing-a-long moment of this show.

The new songs from 25, released this Friday, sounded great in live performance. "Water Under the Bridge" has a steady groove and "All I Ask" is co-written with Bruno Mars. Movingly, she paid tribute to the people of Paris in the aftermath of last week's terrorist attacks, during "Hometown Glory." Another strong song, "When We Were Young," was co-written with FUV fave Tobias Jesso Jr, who was in the crowd last night and who is likely enjoying a game changing moment now himself.

Adele opened her encore with a very Burt Bacharach-sounding tune, "Million Years Ago," which she said harkened back to her hometown of London and the park she would hang out in with her friends before life got complicated with life's other demands and children. In fact her boyfriend Simon Konecki, the father of her toddler son Angelo, was there, seeing her in concert for the first time.

Adele believes in numbers—her debut, 19, came out when she was that age and her second album, 21 again followed that formula as does this new album, her third, 25. Although she's now 27, it's her 25th year that is chronicled on this album, a soon-to-be smash record that mirrors Adele herself: powerful, emotional, big-hearted, earthy, candid, and, above all, irresistibly talented.

Set List:

1. Hello
2. Water Under the Bridge
3. Hometown Glory
4. One and Only
5. Daydreamer
6. Set Fire to the Rain
7. Chasing Pavements
8. Skyfall
9. All I Ask
10. Someone Like You
11. Million Years Ago
12. When We Were Young
13. Rolling in the Deep