Fresh from a fortnight of disappointments, Adele showed she was back on top form in London this evening. Having missed out on the Mercury Music Prize and cancelled a string of dates on her nationwide tour suffering from a chest infection, this week heralded better things for the Tottenham-born warbler after she was nominated for three MTV music awards. Not that a bit of sadness is a bad thing for this pair of lungs, mind. Her albums 21 and 19, sung lustily in an emotively crackling contralto, have earned the 23-year-old a reputation for depth and maturity well beyond her years.
Explaining that she'd been ill and asking us to forgive her for being "a bit raspy still", she opened with "Hometown Glory", a hit from her debut album fully of smoky tones and doo-wops, before launching into some of the better-known tracks from 21. She told us proudly ("Although I'm not one to brag") that the record, released just seven months ago, hit 10 million sales just week. An astonishing achievement. Having stayed at the No 1 spot in the albums chart for just shy of three months and having placed Adele alongside The Beatles as the only artist to have two top five hits in the UK Official Singles Chart and the Albums Chart simultaneously, you can imagine the brain-splitting applause that greeted hits "Don't You Remember" and "Set Fire to the Rain". Everybody in the audience knew every word and belted 'em out.
She soulfully crooned her way through the best part of 21, before she pulled off an impressive cover of The Cure's "Love Song". There was a reminder of how far she'd come as a songwriter when she launched into her breakthrough hit, "Chasing Pavements", which paled in comparison to the heartfelt ballads she's progressed to.
Unlike other platinum-selling artists who rely on hoopla and circus tricks to pull off large-scale shows, Adele appeared diminutive on the wide stage accompanied only by a handful of musicians. She'd applied a lot of her signature eye shadow and plenty of hairspray, but she had oomph enough to fill the space with her music, warmly coy character and throaty laugh. Her willingness to engage with the audience is what sets her apart. I've never heard so many catcalls of "I love you!" from the crowd. She answered them all, waved back, seeming truly pleased to be there and regaling us all with a little too much information about her hapless love life.