Adele's first London gig in five years is an emotional homecoming

Adele performs on stage at American Express present BST Hyde Park in Hyde Park on July 2 in London.

Adele performs on stage at American Express present BST Hyde Park in Hyde Park on July 2 in London. - Credit: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Adele
BST Hyde Park, July 1, 2022
*****

Seconds into her first public performance since 2017, walking on stage at BST Hyde Park to a sell-out crowd of 65,000 (including her son and new boyfriend), Adele starts welling up and her voice cracks at the start of ‘Hello’.

“I’m so happy to be here,” the Tottenham-born singer says, just about holding back the tears before asking the crowd to help her out. 

Of course, her legion of fans are more than happy to oblige, and soon enough she’s back on track - belting out the massive chorus as the sun breaks through. 

This moment of widespread emotion works to demonstrate her relatability - and actually makes her more endearing. 

It’s also emblematic of the kind of performer Adele is; happy to show her vulnerable and extremely funny side (more on that later), whilst emptying her lungs during powerhouse ballads. 

Her long-awaited return to London - which follows an all-female line-up of support artists handpicked by Adele herself, including Mahalia (“Adele, '19', is the whole reason I picked up a guitar and writing music. Without her, I don’t think I’d be here”), Gabrielle, Self Esteem and Kacey Musgraves - manages to feel both grand and intimate at the same time.

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Performing older tracks and new favourites from her recent album ‘30’ with her flawless nine-piece band, this sense of intimacy is partly down to the staging: a staggered, moving backdrop of hanging tassels in a changing palette of oranges couped with glistening mirrorballs that are dotted around. 

Adele’s keenness to interact with the audience between songs is key, too: from shouting out a dozen countries whose flags are waved by fans that have travelled from far and wide to be here, to recognising a dedicated audience member (“oh my god, you’re at every single show I ever do!” Adele beams), to shooting bundled-up t-shirts with signed letters and £50 notes out of a cannon into the crowd.

Looking resplendent and royal in a black sequinned dress and gold earrings, her stage patter has more in common with a drunk auntie - especially as she asks “do we have any divorce parties here tonight?” soon after a singalong of 'I Drink Wine'.

It’s one of many witty one-liners - also highlighting that it's GCSE results week by saying "I failed all my exams other than English and I’m doing alright" - that gives the show an added comedic flavour: Adele could easily have a second career as a stand-up. 

“As I’m sure you know, I don’t really have many up-tempo bangers, so ‘ere we go,” she admits in her cockney cackle.

Cleverly, then, the more upbeat songs from her repertoire (like the rock ‘n’ roll stomp and clap of ‘Rumour Has It') are weaved in every now and then. 

Amidst all this, she even manages to keep a watchful eye for anyone in the crowd who needs assistance, caringly stopping the show just into 'Skyfall' (“I’m very proud of that one”) to get security to come to someone's aid.

Halfway through the show, as a piano appears at the end of the runway from beneath the stage, Adele and her pianist lead a singalong karaoke session, holding her mic out into the crowd for 'Easy On Me'. 

Joking that she's got sciatica now because she's reached 30-years-old, Adele then sits down during ‘Make You Feel My Love’, which elicits a sea of phones to rise and a bouquet of flowers to be passed from the front row.

‘Someone Like You’ - which she says is “the song that changed my life” - once again brings Adele to tears but, ever the professional, she brings the energy back up for 'Oh My God', having asked if everyone is "ready for a little dance?” 

'Set Fire to the Rain' sounds as anthemic as when it was released, especially with flames shooting up. “I think every hair on my face has burnt off! Are my eyebrows still there?” she’s a laugh-a-minute. 

As if the audience hasn’t already been suitably blown away, the show finishes with the night’s second confetti explosion (the first for a rapturous 'Rolling In The Deep'; this time red, white and blue love hearts to tie in with it being Pride weekend) and a jaw-dropping firework display during emotive closer ‘Love Is A Game’. 

By the end of the concert, it's abundantly clear that Adele is in a league of her own when it comes to holding a note. Sending shivers down the spine, it's remarkable how effortless she makes it all look.

BST Hyde Park continues this weekend.