ADELE, O2 Arena – Evening Standard, 16 March 2016

A tiny proportion of Adele’s nation of fans gathered at the O2 for the first of eight London concerts, on what is somehow the biggest singer in the world’s first ever arena tour. The only times she has appeared here before, she’s been picking up BRIT Awards.

If nerves had been an issue previously, they were invisible here. A giant image of her closed eyes opening signalled her rise, at stately pace, to a platform in the centre of the room as she sang that simple, now so familiar, reintroduction: “Hello, it’s me.” Isolated, with her large band hidden behind the screen, she held the room without trickery – just one of the great singing voices.

The speaking voice was another matter, unleashed after three songs to advise fans to “stand up and dance while you can, ‘cos after that it’s miserable.” She shifted constantly from being a lightning rod for emotion to a light entertainer, posing for selfies, doing her finger fluttering wave, cooing at the claims of fan travel from Brazil, Dubai, Hong Kong.

Perhaps this is how she copes with the unfathomable scale of her success. This is her 25 album’s tenth week at number one in the UK, fast approaching 20 million worldwide sales just three months after its release. So she deflected attention to her spots, her burps, her Mothers’ Day mug, and shared her spotlight with a newly engaged couple and a small boy whose hair she admired.

Yet when she sang, there was nowhere else to look – no costume changes and precious few set pieces, aside from a real shower during Set Fire to the Rain and a final blast of confetti covered in her handwriting. The screen failed during her Bond theme, Skyfall, and her delivery was dramatic enough without it.

Aside from the jokes, she said: “Thank you for my privacy,” without which she would have been unable to write great new songs. It’s no secret that she’d prefer to be at home with her family instead of having 90 more shows to go. But when she retreats again, she’ll be badly missed.

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