Adele Rules

First of two Erwin Center shows sets fire to the rain

Adele’s voice fills its surrounding so completely one can hear the ambiance of the space, her booming mezzo-soprano pouring into every nook. Echolocation among female pop singers isn’t rare – Janis, Aretha, Sinéad, Whitney – but the 28-year-old Brit’s first of two sold-out shows at the Frank Erwin Center on Friday proved who rules the 21st century roost.

Photo by Gary Miller

The singer’s 2008 debut 19 sold some seven millions copies worldwide and won two Grammys. Follow-up 21 three years later tripled its predecessor’s golden gramophone trophy count and quadrupled sales globally. Last year, 25 finished the year as planet Earth’s bestseller.

How’s a young London lass to top herself after such Olympian heights? A 107-date tour from February to November of this year. That got the singer out in front of a small fraction (approximately 1.5 million) of her album consumers.

Consecutive nights at the UT drum adds up to some 25,000 seats filled. The singer could’ve doubled that with consecutive weekends in Zilker Park last month. And judging from the video of Austin accompanying “Hometown Glory,” plus her pair of aquamarine cowboy boots from Allens on South Congress, and “loads” of local barbecue consumed – not to mention Voodoo Doughnuts and even a mention of In-N-Out Burger – Adele likes Austin.

Adele in front of a stage screen bearing video of downtown Austin while concealing a 21-piece band (Photo by Gary Miller)

“I love this city. It’s one of my favorite on the whole tour,” she gushed in her two-hour, 101st cage match between Google-sized mega-hits and nerves manifesting themselves in a whole other spoken word performance straight out of an English pub. “I talk a lot,” she warned.

At least five songs worth, by one humble estimation (mine).

Yet where Adele’s songs roar famously autobiographical, her never-ending stream of revelation, self-deprecation, and talk show host audience engagement grounded the otherworldly material in everyday universality: weather (“Set Fire to the Rain”), movies (“Skyfall”), children (“Sweetest Devotion”), and relationships (everything).

“Hello” bid welcome with Ms. Adkins rising from the center of the satellite stage, and “One and Only” played out on piano like something off a Seventies Elton John record, her 21-piece band (including an all-female string octet, all-female horn quartet, and three women back-up singers) finally revealed during “Rumour Has It,” deceptive antidote to a set list torching the notion of torch ballads. More like burnt offering ballads.

“Two hours of misery,” giggled the star. “Two hours of me moaning about ex-boyfriends.”

Better than playing a 2007 South by Southwest showcase “to one person,” but all her rogues were present and accounted for: “Don’t You Remember,” “Send My Love,” “Someone Like You.” A short acoustic set 45 minutes in, Adele and two guitarists, turned “Million Years Ago” into a heartrending lullaby, and later a Dylan cover she estimated she had performed in every one of her 400-odd career performances (“Make You Feel My Love”) touched on her largely untapped interpretative skills.

Following the piece about her son, “Sweetest Devotion,” a tune that seemingly needed no mic, she rushed the end of the show somewhat, the last trio of main set selections delivered a hair too hasty. Even so, the million-dollar choruses of “Set Fire to the Rain” – touching off a real-life downpour on the second stage as Adele stood dry in the middle – and “Rolling in the Deep” thrust locomotive, all knees weakened. Glitter cannons unleashed an arena full of fortune cookie-sized slips of paper with her song titles.

God save the queen.

Photo by Gary Miller

Set list, Frank Erwin Center, 11.4.16

“Hello”

“Hometown Glory”

“One and Only”

“Rumour Has It”

“Water Under the Bridge”

“Skyfall”

“Million Years Ago”

“Don’t You Remember”

“Make You Feel My Love”

“Send My Love”

“Sweetest Devotion”

“Chasing Pavements”

“Someone Like You”

“Set Fire to the Rain”

------------------------

“When We Were Young”

“Rolling in the Deep”

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Adele, Adele Adkins, Janis Joplin, Aretha, Sinéad, Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan, James Bond, SXSW, Allens, Voodoo Doughnuts

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