“London, I love you so much”


"London, I love you so much"

First things first: Adele showed up.

And in many ways, that was the biggest hurdle Adele faced on her way to triumph at the first of two shows at American Express Presents BST Hyde Park Festival in London.

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You see, when Adele last headlined a huge outdoor run in her hometown in 2017, she canceled the last two shows of her planned four-day stint at Wembley Stadium after damaging her vocal cords. In fact, this was her first full live show since.

More recently, there was the minor matter of their Las Vegas residency being scrapped at the very last minute, leaving many British fans stranded in Sin City. So, as Adele “Who’s ready for tomorrow?” On Instagram ahead of this big show, many people’s response might have been something like, “Let’s hope you’re ready…”

Add some complaints about the cost of some tickets for those two 65,000-capacity gigs (though they differed little from other big concerts) and the general feeling that Adele — once as London as jellied eels — “might have gone all LA ‘Your adopted country, and you have reasons for the first flare-up of, well, not exactly native anger. But definitely some good old-fashioned Brits ranting about the possibility of Britain’s biggest star losing touch with their roots.

None of this stopped the scalpers from coming out in droves, and their mantra “tickets for Adele, buy or sell” echoed in the driveway to Hyde Park. Apparently, it didn’t stop hundreds of fans from showing up earlier in the day to listen to their sound check from outside the fence, or for Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise and James Corden to snag tickets back to their first show.

But there were indications that tonight wouldn’t quite live up to the straight-forward “returning hometown superstar triumph” that one would expect. Until Adele started singing.

She emerged with minimal fanfare, dressed in a sleek black dress and statement earrings, and sang “Hello.” But she barely got through the first line before exclaiming, “I’m so lucky to be here!” and begging the crowd for vocal support.

From that point on, the audience was all on their side, the words to each Heartbreak anthem echoing through the seemingly endless lines of fans enjoying the evening sun.

But Adele edited them anyway. “It’s weird being in front of a crowd again,” she once said, but the truth is she remains a natural. It’s become something of a cliché to suggest that their between-song banter contains as many hits as the actual musical element of the set, but it’s true.

It’s certainly hard to imagine any other global superstar proclaiming, “I shit myself!” like Adele did before a hilarious “I Drink Wine,” all exaggeratedly raised eyebrows and smirking at the fans who looked like they had followed the advice of the song title to the letter. But many other singers couldn’t pull off their cruise ship comping style, either, reading signs held up in the crowd and congratulating people on birthdays, anniversaries, “divorce parties,” or exam results (“I failed all my exams and I’m fine good”) or just for making it here from places as far away as Brazil, New Zealand and the United States.

One fan even mentions Wembley. “Did you come to the shows I canceled?” she asks, horrified. “It’s the fifth anniversary, isn’t it? I didn’t mean to bring it up…”

Most exchanges were less cumbersome. When she babbled about staying up late drinking “Stranger Things,” her joy at Britney Spears memes, or taking her son to see Billie Eilish at the O2 (“She was spotless”), it was easy to get you weren’t forgotten at a stand-up gig or variety show at your local dive bar. Or at least it was when you could hear them – the screams of “Turn it up!” Turn it up!” from the outside, the gold circle could be heard clearly over their conversation, although apparently not from Adele herself.

Despite this, a large concert broke out at regular intervals. In recent years, Adele seemed to save her most spectacular vocals for her weakest songs, but few stations stayed naughty like “Skyfall” (after Adele stopped it the first time so security could help someone in the crowd) and “Easy on Me.” ‘ reminded everyone what a powerful, stunning singer she still is.

That might as well be. At a time when even Ed Sheeran’s tours involve revolving stages and multiple effects, most of Adele’s set relied heavily on her voice to deliver the fireworks. And she did — she performed “All I Ask,” “Make You Feel My Love” (an impromptu, unrehearsed selection that wasn’t on the original setlist), and “Someone Like You” on the catwalk, backed by only one piano and 65,000 voices.

“As you probably know, I don’t have a lot of fast crackers,” she once said. But actually, the ones she has are among the highlights – a tinny “Rumor Has It,” a swinging “Oh My God,” and a soaring “Set Fire to the Rain,” which reminds the crowd that this is more of a festival was than a more intimate soiree.

The latter even saw the special effects kick in as someone took the title literally (Adele songs seem to have that effect on people) and a combination of real fire and fake rain drove billows of black smoke across Hyde Park. Patriotic red, white and blue confetti followed as an irresistible “Rolling in the Deep” ended core set.

For the encore, Adele was ready to address the elephants in the, uh, field (obliquely). “I know a lot of things happened with this album, I know a lot of you feel disappointed and I’m ashamed,” she said without giving details, after a delightfully emotional “When We Were Young.” “But I take my music very seriously and I had to.”

Whether that will appease those still waiting for Vegas to happen remains to be seen, but in the field it seemed more than enough to restore Adele’s status as a woman of the people, as thunderous applause broke out.

“London, I love you so much,” she smiled in response. “So A lot.” And the feeling was clearly mutual. As a final, string-drenched “Love Is a Game” floated across the fields, fireworks lit up the crowd and more confetti poured out. This time, it was pink and red hearts , which perfectly symbolized the renewed love affair between the British capital and her lost daughter.

Because in the end Adele did what she (almost) always does: she showed up, she sang and she won.

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