|Adele performs at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto May 18, 2011. (Mark O’Neill, QMI Agency)
TORNOTO - How appropriate that British soul-pop singer-songwriter Adele should open her sold-out show at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night with Hometown Glory.
The 23-year-old belter from North London, who was originally supposed to play the Kool Haus but got moved to the hockey arena’s theatre setup due to high demand to see her, has been THE success story of 2011 so far.
Her sophomore album, 21, remained at the top of the charts in Canada for the fourth straight week as she arrived in town, while also at No. 1 in the U.S. for the eighth straight week, having sold over three and a half million copies worldwide in the last three months.
“Look at all the people,” said Adele, who could initially be heard singing backstage while a spotlight shone on her pianist before she walked out to huge cheers from the audience of 6,100.
By the next song, I’ll Be Waiting, her entire seven-piece band was revealed.
“It’s my first time ever in arena,” claimed the singer, whose strawberry blond hair was piled high upon her head except for one long braid while she wore a classic-looking black and silver dress.
With a noted reluctance to play larger venues, she kept her surroundings as intimate as possible with Tiffany lamps and area rugs decorating her otherwise bare stage - no oversized video screens for her.
She claimed that she and the band were out the night before doing karaoke: “So we’re all a bit hoarse. Bear with me with the high notes ‘cause I was heckling last night.”
But her big, soulful voice was in good form, for the most part, despite a wayward note at the end of Turning Tables.
By the next song, Set Fire To the Rain, the audience got into the groove with a spirited clap-along, and afterwards she turned up the house lights so she could get a good look at everyone, including a couple of fans near the front who had brought a handmade sign.
“Hey-ay!” she said stretching the greeting out, before thanking the sign-makers profusely.
Adele, who sometimes sat on a stool, sometimes stood, occasionally with an acoustic guitar, does have a knack for connecting with her audience as she happily - perhaps nervously? - chatted away in her thick, hard-to-understand accent between songs and let the occasional cackle rip.
She seems determined, despite her rising fame, to remain just one of the girls.
“I have no idea how to dance unless I’ve had quite a lot of vodka,” was one of her many confessions.
Adele’s disposition, look and voice definitely recalls another time.
Other musical highlights from her 80-minute set of songs from 21 and its 2008 predecessor, 19, included the driving Rumour Has It, the bouncy Right As Rain, the torchy ballad One and Only, and her breakthrough hit, Chasing Pavements.
“This is probably the first song most of you ever heard from me,” said Adele, before launching into Pavements.
Her eclectic, if well-chosen list of covers were If It Hadn’t Been For Love, by Nashville band The Steel Drivers, an excellent bossa nova take on Lovesong by The Cure, which is on 21, and a heartfelt rendition of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love, included on 19.
“I adore The Cure,” said Adele. “My first concert was The Cure. I was about three or four. My mother took me.”
But everyone was waiting for her thrilling monster hit, from 21 - Rolling In The Deep - and had to wait for it to close the show after a beautiful rendering of the ballad, Someone Like You, in which she played acoustic guitar while accompanied by her piano player and the crowd, who sang along.
“I took my shoes off - try standing in high heels on a rug,” joked Adele, herself to the very end.
“This has been amazing. I’m still nervous.”
I’ll Be Waiting
Don’t You Remember
Set Fire to the Rain
If It Hadn’t Been for Love (The Steel Drivers cover)
Take It All
Rumour Has It
Right as Rain
One and Only
Lovesong (The Cure cover)
Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan Cover)
Someone Like You
Rolling in the Deep