Adele, 02 Academy, Leeds

Tears fall as records tumble
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The Independent Culture

The double-Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Adele continued her remarkable run of successes with a stunning sold-out gig in Leeds, on Thursday, that marked the start of her highly-anticipated spring UK tour.

Crowds crammed the intimate venue to watch the soulful 22-year-old singer who has been celebrating a breaking records. Her album 21 spent 11 consecutive weeks at the top of the album charts, smashing the nine-week mark last reached more than two decades ago by Madonna, and only one week off Bob Marley's 12-week all-time record that was achieved with Legend.

But, somehow, success has not gone to this London-born soul diva's head. It is often said that what makes Adele's persona and performances so charming is her openness and humility – both seen in abundance throughout this show.

Beginning proceedings with the wistful "Hometown Glory" from 19, Adele's first words are of how good she feels to be back home in the UK, and heartfelt thanks for such devoted support from her fans.

Pop ballad "Don't You Remember", from 21, showcases her new-found Southern musical influence (apparently inherited from a tour-bus driver) and the sheer, indisputable, strength of her vocals, but it also prompts the songstress to admit that her new album, which creeps with darkness and heartbreak, is proving difficult to perform live.

"I do struggle singing this album – it's just so sad," she confides in the crowd. "Please bear with me if I start to get a bit wobbly." Thankfully, Adele's "sweary" stories and surprisingly dirty laugh offer much-needed light relief between numbers.

"I haven't been home for a while so I thought I'd treat myself," she tells the crowd (in between their recurrent shouts of "I love you" and "Will you marry me?") in her signature excitable, storytelling style, her voice still thick with her London accent. "I thought I'd buy myself a bag, so I went in there and my f***ing card got declined!"

The hyperbolic anthem "I Set Fire to the Rain" and the love-ballad "Turning Tables" feel overproduced on the album, but live, the biting edge of Adele's tone means they are easily as impressive as the rest. Her bossa-nova infused performance of "Lovesong" (originally by The Cure, one of her mum's favourites) brings a more sombre atmosphere, which is soon followed by her popular cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love". But her voice is so consistently remarkable it is difficult to choose highlights – until the encore.

Fists clench, voices crack, hairs stand on end and tears stream down cheeks as Adele weaves hopelessness, fragility, desperation and defiance into her timeless tale of the pain of unrequited love – recent No 1 single "Someone Like You". The notes come easily, underlined with the gentle rise and fall of simple keys, but she strives to hit them with every ounce of her strength – before, as with her Brit awards performance, she is overcome by emotion.

Adele is embarrassed – as if she still doesn't realise that it's this passion that it exactly why she's breaking all those records. She recovers herself to end with the hugely popular single "Rolling in the Deep", but not before thanking the crowd for the "best night she's ever had".