Adele rocked Radio City music Hall tonight in her first concert in four years. She performed for a sold out crowd that included Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Daniel Day Lewis with son Gabriel Kane, Bradley Cooper and date Irina Shayk, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Colin Jost of “Saturday Night Live” and David Schwimmer.
Lorne Michaels, whom Adele credits with breaking her on “Saturday Night Live,” produced the show for NBC. It will air December 14th. Jimmy Fallon warmed up the audience for a couple of minutes, and then Adele took the stage.
Her set lasted a little over an hour. She was funny and sweet, and her voice soared. She is now the greatest singer of her generation and this generation, with an instrument that still needs to be tested on ballads and standards. But her set was fine, starting with her current hit “Hello” and including past hits like “Chasing Pavements,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” “Someone Like You,” and the theme from “Skyfall,” which was magnificent.
As earthy and salty as she is, Adele excels at melodramatic songs. She knows a good soap opera, and is sort of a contemporary Mary J. Blige. But she also knows melody, and her newest hit, “When We Were Young,” is poised to be tremendous. Considering that she hadn’t sung in public in years, and is just breaking in the new songs, that’s saying a lot.
“I’ve been dying to do a f—ing show,” she said in one of her many Eliza Doolittle moments of the evening. Even in a glittering gown, there is no changing Adele. Some of the show will have to be bleeped. “This is for TV,” she advised the audience, “don’t pick your nose.” She called Bruno Mars, who wrote a song with her, “cool as f-ck.”
Maybe she needs the humor to keep herself from getting too bowled over by what’s going on. We haven’t had a singer like this since Whitney Houston or Barbra Streisand. As Adele has progressed from “19” to “21” to “25,” she’s making a legend in her own time. And now we know what happened to “23”– she said that “Skyfall” was Bond 23, and she was 23 at the time, so that project fulfilled that missing number for her.
Just a word on the video projection: Adele, you see, cannot be confined to a video screen. So Michaels and his staff just projected her over the entire Radio City proscenium, using the video screen as an insert. The effect was mesmerizing.
I did run into a friend of mine from Sony before the show. Apparently, “25” is on track to sell more than a million copies in its first week– maybe closer to 2 million. Extraordinary in a time when the music business seethes apathy toward most artists. But Adele is real, and the audience knows it. There is no artifice. When she plays the guitar, she makes excuses in advance– and then plays it very well. She’s connecting on a very basic level, unlike almost all the female performers of her age group whose shows seem like they were scripted within an inch of their lives.
So, onto the album release this week and “Saturday Night Live” and record setting sales. Brava!