Adele, Roundhouse, London

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The Independent Culture

The cup of tea that Adele clutched at the beginning of tonight's set was an appropriate symbol for the kind of intimate homecoming performance she delivered warmly to a delighted Camden Roundhouse audience. And the roadie dressed as an elf who brought the tea to her after the opening number, "Hometown Glory", was an indication of the show's plentiful festive goodwill.

In a sky full of pop starlets who have accents ranging no further than mockney to cockney (with the exception of Duffy), Adele Adkins might well have struggled to stand out from the pack this year. Might well have, were it not for the kind of wry and emotive talent that saw her power through a set that took in the majority of the soulful London singer's debut album, 19, and a handful of well-chosen covers.

Showing her Brit-school pedigree, Adele looked as comfortable performing minimalist arrangements of songs such as "Daydreamer", on which she played acoustic guitar, as she did with material such as "Cold Shoulder", where her backing band's lively accompaniment afforded her the opportunity to focus on showcasing a voice that has developed over the past year into a serious talent.

Just as impressive were the candid interactions with her audience. "I can't talk yet, I'm still nervous," she announced after the mesmerising "Best for Last". "I threw up before a gig in Brussels recently," she concluded. She later chatted with the audience about who they thought should have won The X Factor. Given that she's a down-to-earth diva herself, it came as little surprise to learn she was a fan of the eventual winner, Alexandra Burke.

But while her sassy personality is a boon given the vacuity of many of her pop rivals, her extraordinary vocal talent is what will ensure bigger things in the year ahead. It reached its peak on her staple cover of Etta James's 1961 hit "Fool That I Am"; the universality of the song's themes of young heartbreak and spurned love exemplified by how comfortably the song sat among the singer's own material.

With her singing reaching the lofty heights of Amy Winehouse, Adele wrapped up the set with hit single "Chasing Pavements", at which point shining ticker tape descended from the ceiling. Not a face in the venue was left without a smile. Earlier, one voice rose out of the audience claiming, "I've seen you three times." "This is your third time? You must be bored," came Adele's response, to laughter. On this evidence, that's hard to imagine.

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