By John Curley
There was a buzz in the air outside the Beacon Theatre on the night of Thursday, May 19th prior to the first of two sold-out New York City shows by the London-based singer-songwriter Adele. Many people outside the Beacon were hoping to score tickets, and they looked on rather forlornly as those lucky enough to possess tickets walked past them and into the venue. The reason for this is rather simple: Adele had both the number one album and single in the charts as well as being a performer whose star is, without question, on the rise.
Inside the Beacon, one could feel the excitement in the crowd as they waited with great anticipation for Adele to take the stage. Even when the concert began, the audience had to wait a bit longer to see the star of the show. As her keyboardist played “Hometown Glory” onstage, Adele sang the opening bit of the song backstage before emerging to thunderous cheers from the crowd. It was a very effective entrance.
When “Hometown Glory” concluded, the curtain behind Adele opened to reveal the other members of her five-piece backing band as well as her two backup singers. The stage had the look of a small, comfortable club, complete with lamps and rugs on the floor. Adele and her ensemble then plunged into the evening’s second song, “I’ll Be Waiting.”
During the main set, Adele’s performances of “Set Fire To The Rain” and “Rumour Has It” elicited the biggest reactions from the crowd. During the encore, Adele had the crowd sing parts of the moving “Someone Like You.” She smiled broadly as the audience sang their part with a lusty, full-throated roar. And she brought the house down with the final number of the evening, the current number-one single “Rolling In The Deep.”
Adele performed three covers at the Beacon show: Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” (which was on her debut album, 19), The Cure’s “Lovesong” (which appears on her current album, 21), and “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” by the Nashville-based bluegrass band The SteelDrivers. Of those three covers, “If It Hadn’t Been For Love” was the standout. It was simply stunning, and it made me want to hear Adele tackle additional country tunes. She seemed very far indeed from her North London roots when she sang the song.
Adele is playing larger venues on this tour than she did during her earlier visits to America. At the Beacon show, she attempted to make the venue seem more intimate. With her witty and sometimes coarse between-song banter and numerous interactions with the crowd, she definitely succeeded. The audience was quite raucous, and was shouting things at Adele throughout the evening. She seemed pleased to get such a reaction from the crowd.
Opening the show with a very-well received 40-minute set were The Civil Wars, a very talented indie-folk duo comprised of Joy Williams and John Paul White. The highlight of their set was a radically reworked and quite mesmerizing version of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The Beacon Theatre show was The Civil Wars’ last appearance on Adele’s tour. Adele broke with usual form and walked onstage during The Civil Wars’ performance to present them with a large bouquet of flowers, a move which brought tears to both Adele and Joy Williams. Adele walked to Williams’ microphone and, in a halting and tearful voice, told the crowd that she had more fun touring with The Civil Wars than she ever had on tour in the past and that she was going to miss them. Williams and White appeared to be both genuinely moved and shocked that Adele made such a gesture to them. And the crowd went wild. It was a nice moment. Adele really does wear her heart on her sleeve.
Adele recently turned 23. That she possesses such staggering talent at such a tender age is almost frightening. She is only going to get better, and that thought provides much hope that we will still have some quality pop tunes to listen to down the road in a pop-music world that is becoming increasingly Autotuned. Katy Perry? Lady Gaga? Oh, please! Those two and the other flavor-of-the-month pop princesses should do themselves a favor and check out Adele to see how it’s really done.
The Beacon Theatre concert was a special one for Adele, as her mother and best friend had both come over from London and were in attendance. Adele pulled out all the stops at the show and delivered a truly memorable performance that had the crowd exiting the building afterward with big smiles on their faces.
Adele’s popularity, particularly among female listeners, partly lies in the fact that her songs are so relatable. Many women in the audience sang along knowingly as Adele performed her songs of heartbreak and love gone south. Adele obviously realizes that her star is swiftly rising, so she deserves quite a bit of credit for the way she interacted with the fans at the Beacon. Despite her great fame and the attendant riches that it has brought, Adele seems determined to erase that boundary between the performer and the fans.
I had the very good fortune to attend Adele’s first-ever show in the United States, which took place on March 17, 2008 at Joe’s Pub in New York City. I concluded my review of that concert by writing, “I had just seen a star in the making, and I will not soon forget that performance.” A little over three years from that show, Adele has become one of music’s biggest stars. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to watch Adele’s progression.
Adele performed a second sold-out New York City show two nights later at the United Palace Theatre.
Adele’s 85-minute performance at the Beacon Theatre included a 14-song main set and two-song encore. The set list was as follows:
I’ll Be Waiting
Don’t You Remember
Set Fire To The Rain
If It Hadn’t Been For Love
Take It All
Rumour Has It
Right As Rain
One And Only
Make You Feel My Love
Someone Like You
Rolling In The Deep