First things first: Adele showed up.
And in many ways, that was the biggest hurdle Adele faced on her way to victory during the first of two shows at London’s American Express Presents BST Hyde Park festival.
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You see, the last time Adele headlined a mass outdoor run in her hometown, in 2017, she canceled the last two shows of her scheduled four-day Wembley Stadium stint after damaging her vocal cords. In fact, this was her first full live show since then.
More recently, there was the small matter of her Las Vegas residency, which was scrapped at the very last minute, leaving many British fans stranded in Sin City. So when Adele “Who’s ready for tomorrow?” on Instagram prior to this massive show, many people’s response could very well have been along the lines of, “Let’s hope you’re ready…”
Add in some complaints about the cost of some tickets to these two 65,000-capacity performances (although they were barely in line with other major concerts) and the general feeling that Adele – once London as jelly – might be ‘all LA’ her adopted home, and you have reasons for the first flickers of, well, not exactly the rage of the hometown. But certainly a good old-fashioned British grumble about the UK’s biggest star possibly losing touch with her roots.
None of that stopped the scalpers from coming out with vigor, their mantra of, “Tickets for Adele, buy or sell” echoed around the approach to Hyde Park. Nor did it apparently stop hundreds of fans who came to listen to her soundcheck from outside the fence earlier in the day, or the likes of Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise and James Corden from scoring tickets to her first show back.
But the signs were that tonight wouldn’t necessarily live up to the straightforward “recurring hometown superstar triumphs” story you’d expect. At least until Adele started singing.
She emerged with minimal fanfare, wearing an elegant black dress and statement earrings, singing “Hello”. But she barely made it through the first line before exclaiming, “I’m so happy to be here!” and ask the audience for some vocal help.
From then on, the audience was completely on their side, the words of each love song echoing back along the seemingly endless rows of fans enjoying the evening sun.
But Adele worked them anyway. “It’s strange to be in front of a crowd again,” she said at one point, but in reality she remains a natural. It’s become a bit of a cliché to suggest that her inter-song banter contains as many hits as the actual musical element of the set, but it’s true.
It’s certainly hard to imagine another global superstar announcing “I shit myself!” as Adele did for a rambunctious “I Drink Wine,” all overly raising eyebrows and growling at the fans who looked like they’d followed the title’s advice to the letter. But neither were many other singers able to take off her cruise ship show-like style, reading the placards held in the crowd and congratulating people on birthdays, anniversaries, “divorce parties,” exam results (“I’ve passed all my exams and I’m doing well.” me”) or just to get here from faraway locations like Brazil, New Zealand, and the United States.
One fan even mentions Wembley. “Are you coming to the shows I canceled?” she asks, bewildered. ‘It’s the fifth birthday, isn’t it? I wasn’t going to bring it…’
Most exchanges were less awkward. While she’s been mulling over staying up late to “Stranger Things,” her fun of Britney Spears memes, or taking her son to Billie Eilish at the O2 Arena (“She was flawless”), it was easy to forget about you. weren’t at a stand-up gig or variety show at your local pub. Or at least, if you could hear her – the cries of “Put it on! Put it on!” from the outside, the golden circle could be heard clearly above her chat, though apparently not by Adele herself.
But still a big concert broke out at regular intervals. Over the years, Adele seemed to save her most spectacular vocals for her weakest songs, but few stops were left like “Skyfall” (after Adele stopped it the first time so security could help someone in the crowd) and “Easy.” on Me” reminded everyone what a powerhouse, show-stopping singer she remains.
This might as well. At a time when even Ed Sheeran’s tours featured spinning stages and multiple effects, most of Adele’s set relied heavily on her voice to provide the fireworks. And she did – with “All I Ask”, “Make You Feel My Love” (a spontaneous, untrained selection that wasn’t on the first set list) and “Someone Like You” down the catwalk, backed only by a piano and 65,000 to vote.
“As you probably know, I don’t have many up-tempo bangers,” she said at one point. But in fact the ones she does have were among the highlights – a brassy “Rumor Has It”, a swinging “Oh My God” and a soaring “Set Fire to the Rain” that reminded the crowd that this was a festival, in rather than a more intimate soiree.
The latter even saw the special effects kick in as someone took the title literally (Adele songs seem to have that effect on people) and a combination of real fire and fake rain caused plumes of black smoke to rise over Hyde Park. Patriotic red, white and blue confetti followed as an irresistible “Rolling in the Deep” capped off the main set.
At the encore, Adele was ready to (obliquely) address the elephants in the, er, field. “I know a lot of things have happened to this album, I know many of you feel let down and I’m mortified,” she said, without giving details, after a gloriously emotional “When We Were Young.” “But I take my music very seriously and I had to.”
Whether that will appease those still waiting for Vegas remains to be seen, but on the field it seemed more than enough to restore Adele’s woman of the people status, when a roar of applause erupted.
“London, I love you so much,” she smiled in reply. “So a lot.” And the feeling was clearly mutual. As a final rope-soaked “Love Is a Game” drifted across the fields, some real fireworks lit up the crowd and more confetti arrived. This time it was pink and red hearts, which perfectly symbolized the renewed love affair between the British capital and her lost daughter.
Because in the end Adele did what she (almost) always does: she showed up, she sang and she conquered.
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