The versatility and stylistic breadth Adele Adkins displays on her impressive debut album "19" was peppered with gosh-golly comments of embarrassment at a sold-out Wiltern Friday night. Adele, who goes by the single moniker and as such is nominated for four Grammys, often lost herself between song, overwhelmed by the crowd's enthusiasm that led her to giggle, babble and at one point throw up the house lights to take a picture.
When it came time to sing, she fully composed herself and in a hourlong show - that includes a three-song encore and an instrumental vamp to showcase her R&B band - made a strong case for the power of her voice and the sweet caress of her songs. "Chasing Pavements," her one mid-sized hit, was saved for last and it stood alongside rather above the pack.
Significantly, Adele's presentation confirms the individualism at work in her artistry. All of the Brit gals we've seen, from Amy Winehouse to Leona Lewis to Duffy, clearly have the pipes, but Adele is among the leaders when it comes to presenting oneself as an artist and not solely as an affecting voice within a nod-to-the-past production. The show is convincing is making one believe she has many different avenues to take on a second record.
Adele, now 20 and near the end of a quick U.S. tour, is bluesier than the rest of the young female thrushes who have arrived on these shores over the last several years. Her idol, she says in many interviews and noted Friday, is Etta James and paid tribute to her first by pulling "Melt My Heart to Stone" out of the recorded version's Bonnie Raitt territory and gave it the sizzle of heartbreak James might have invested in it 50 years ago in Chicago. Second nod came in her torment-inspired reading of "Many Shades of Black," the barroom blues tune she recorded with Jack White's Raconteurs. Adele also sang her favorite James tune, "Fool That I Am"; it was her most restrained perf of the night.
Happenstance played a key role in getting Adele to this point - her perf on the "Saturday Night Live" telecast that featured Gov. Sarah Palin gave her album a second life and may well be responsible for the Grammy noms beyond new artist. The immediate result was seen Friday: The concert had initially been scheduled for the Avalon, which holds a little more than half the capacity of the Wiltern, and the $25 tickets were being offered for more than $250 online.
James Morrison opened by combining good-natured charm, a distillation of mid-Atlantic soul music and a folk-rocker's sweetness.
Adele's set list:
Cold Shoulder / Melt My Heart to Stone / Daydreamer / Best for Last / Right as Rain / Many Shades of Black / First Love / Tired / Make You Feel My Love / Instrumental (band introductions) Fool That I Am / Hometown Glory / Crazy for You / I'm Movin' On / Chasing Pavements
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