Adele, BST Hyde Park, review: She's back, and in full flight like this Adele is a truly formidable talent

·3 min read
Adele was playing in the UK for the first time since she cancelled Wembley Stadium dates in 2017 - GETTY IMAGES
Adele was playing in the UK for the first time since she cancelled Wembley Stadium dates in 2017 - GETTY IMAGES

To the sound of a resonant piano, a lone voice crooned “Hello … it’s me,” the notes rising hopefully into a bright London evening sky. An electrifying buzz of excitement and relief surged through the 65,000 gathered in Hyde Park. Despite rumours to the contrary, the biggest selling star in popular music was back on stage, ready to sing again.

"I'm so happy to be here," gasped a visibly overwhelmed Adele. As the opening number of her first concert in five years reached its first chorus, it was as if all those 65,000 voices were raised at once in a huge burst of communal melody: “Hello from the other side!”

And thus began the biggest mass singalong London has witnessed since… well, probably since Adele cancelled the final Wembley Stadium shows of her 2017 world tour due to damaged vocal cords.

She may be the biggest-selling star of contemporary popular music but there was a genuine sense of jeopardy as Adele made an emotional return to her hometown. The chaotic last-minute postponement of a planned Las Vegas residency in January caused doubts about Adele’s state of mind, especially when it comes to live performance, where she has previously admitted to stage fright.

With showy Instagram posts or her glitzy LA lifestyle with millionaire sports agent boyfriend Rich Paul, many have wondered if her heart is even in music anymore? She may be pop’s reigning superstar, but there was a real sense that Adele had something to prove on the first of two nights at Hyde Park. She knew it too. "I'm s---ting myself," she blurted with typically rude candour.

Hello was an obvious set opener, but then Adele has made an art of the obvious: big ballads, big emotions, big makeup, big voice. Much of the confusion over her Vegas cancellation centred around slightly unconvincing stories of production and design complications. For what does Adele really need to do her job? A nice frock, a decent band and a microphone. At Hyde Park she had all three.

There was a slick nine-piece group dressed in black augmented by a small string section, an arrangement of dangling fringe lights overhead, and a massive wraparound high definition screen. Over the course of the night there was smoke, flames, fireworks, confetti and giant mirrorballs, but Adele's real special effects are her emotional, accessible songs and fantastic voice. All night she was digging deep and low then pulling out long, powerful notes to remind us that she didn't conquer the world by accident. Adele in full flow is a truly formidable talent.

She is also a warm, charming, earthy presence with a gift for the gab that provides a lively contrast with the sophistication of her songcraft. "The amount of times I've been out there drunk offa my face singing along to other artists, I can't tell you," she laughed, looking at the immense audience. "It's strange to be in front of a crowd again!"

All night long her spontaneous chatter was funny and fresh, stamping the occasion with personality. I don't know if I have ever seen anyone apparently more comfortable onstage.

In full flow, Adele is a powerhouse - GETTY IMAGES
In full flow, Adele is a powerhouse - GETTY IMAGES

Indeed, almost too comfortable. She played 18 songs and could have squeezed in a dozen more with less banter. Ultimately

it was the songs that carried the occasion. Heartfelt, melodic, memorable and delivered with an easy flow that could suddenly rise up with spectacular power, Adele in full flight proved an absolute powerhouse.

Someone Like You accompanied by solo piano was spectacular, the crowd's singing bringing tears to Adele's eyes. An unrehearsed but intense version of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love was wonderful. Set Fire to the Rain backed by pyrotechnic explosions was fantastic. Rolling in the Deep was an absolute blast.

What happened in Vegas can stay in Vegas. Adele ruled in London.