Adele at the Xcel Energy Center, 8/24/11

August 24, 2011
Xcel Energy Center

If you were wondering about the future of popular music, or how any artist in today's music industry could keep both their voice and their soul, Adele is your answer. With her most recent album 21 debuting back in January at No. 1 in both the U.K. and the U.S., breaking records throughout this year, and being invited to sing at the Royal Wedding, it's safe to say that Adele is on top of the world. At her show last night at the Xcel Energy Center--the second scheduled makeup show after her first First Avenue cancellation on May 26--the British songstress was clearly at ease with her position at the helm, confidently and magnanimously navigating the crowd through 90 minutes of the blissfully heartbreaking ballads that Adele has become famous for.

Adele greeted the audience with "Hometown Glory", the first verse ringing throughout the arena whilst only her pianist, Miles Robertson, was playing from a dark stage. Then she parted the curtains and popped out, dressed in a smart black dress with her usual '60's-style makeup and beehive-esque hair. The song ended, and Adele was quick to apologize for canceling her last show and thank everyone for coming out again.

"I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, but thank you so much for coming," she said, and she clearly meant it--and would repeat it throughout the evening.

"How many of you were meant to be at First Avenue?" Adele asked, smiling at the screams from the audience. "Thank you so much for still coming to see me. I'm not very good in arenas, I get nervous. But I'm gonna make it feel like we're at First Avenue, all right?"

And that was that--the audience was totally disarmed, entirely in love with the woman on stage who so genuinely, wholeheartedly offered herself up.

With the second song, "I'll Be Waiting", the curtain came up to reveal Adele's full backing band, with some enthusiastic backup singers and fringed lampshades hanging from the ceiling. They would deftly work new arrangements of Adele's hits, giving things a jazzy, '70's-lounge vibe, even, with an electric organ, a gospel feel.

Adele conducted most of the evening like it was a casual affair, just her and a few good friends whom she happened to be entertaining with some songs. Her talent is so natural, her warmth so contagious, that her banter was hardly banter at all--more like intimate little tidbits she was sharing.


"I must tell you, I just got back in touch with the guy that this album is about, and we're friends now... I'm relieved, because the album's been doing so well, I started to feel a bit bad." Adele grinned cheekily. "Anyway, this is another sad one, even sadder than before, sing along if you know it." With that, she launched into "Turning Tables"--and of course everyone knew it. The night continued on like that, Adele grinning and giggling and laughing at herself with the audience, asking again and again between songs for the lights to be turned up so she could see up to the balcony and watch nearly 10,000 pairs of eyes blinking back at her expectantly. Good thing she had such humor, because with all those gloomy songs, so perfectly heavy, and with her pitch-perfect, flawless voice, the entire crowd might have started bawling midway through the evening. (Not that some didn't.)

Beyond her voice, that most incredible instrument that seemingly pours out of her with no conscious effort, it was Adele's confident command of the stage that made her seem as though she had been doing this thing for decades. Was this the same artist who had told Rolling Stone in April that she had terrible anxiety attacks, was scared of audiences, and had been physically ill due to nerves? Couldn't be. Give her an Oscar, too--she covered it well.

High points of the night included Adele's stunning tribute to the late Amy Winehouse by way of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love", where she asked the audience to hold up their cell phones. "For Amy," she encouraged. "Keep them up, because then she can feel your love from upstairs." Little inches of light glittered and twinkled like hundreds of stars captured in the stadium.

Then there was the video Adele recorded for her best friend Laura, whose birthday she would be missing, where she arranged for the audience to scream "Congratulations!" And the fan who asked for a photograph, and Adele pulled her on stage for one. And the hilarious rant before "One And Only", about the "dickhead" who "tried to bring [her] down".

Such personality is fitting of an artist who, in a single song, can capture all the emotion of the worst feeling you've ever had--and then lessen it. As Adele closed out the evening with "Rolling In The Deep", that was certainly the sensation of the audience who filed out afterwards--some wiping away tears, some holding hands... all jubilant.

For more photos: See our full Adele and Wanda Jackson slideshow, by Steve Cohen, here.

Critic's bias: IT'S ADELE.
The Crowd: Mixed, but very female. When Adele first took the stage, I thought, this might be one show where I need the plugs for the girls screaming and not the music.
Overheard in the crowd: Various shouts of "I love you!" and "Have my babies!" etc. etc.
Random notebook dump: I hate to lump opener Wanda Jackson here, because the woman is a legend and deserves her own little feature. She strutted out in a white fringed little jacket like the sassy rock 'n' roll grandmother you wish you had, recapping some of her career highlights and playing some old and new tunes--"Blow Your Top", "Right or Wrong", and "Shakin All Over", along with an Elvis cover--and a casually mentioned "we dated when we could"--and a cover of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good". The woman is still so full of life--and still so incredibly good at what she does--that before Adele took the stage, I wondered if Wanda Jackson might not have just stolen the show. Plus, her backing band for the evening was the stellar local outfit the Hillbilly Voodoo Dolls--just a little local pride.
Other random notebook dump: Adele gave a shout out to the 112 Eatery, where she had dinner before the show: "They really looked after us, it was lovely. I went all out
and had 3 cranberry juices! Rock and roll!"
Set list:
"Hometown Glory"
"I'll Be Waiting"
"Don't You Remember"
"Turning Tables"
"Set Fire To The Rain"
"If It Hadn't Been For Love"
"My Same"
"Take It All"
"Rumor Has It"
"Right As Rain"
"One And Only"
"LoveSong (the Cure cover)"
"Chasing Pavements"
"I Can't Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)"
"Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan cover)"
"Someone Like You"
"Rolling In The Deep"