Adele, for all of her success, has had a rough road this past year. One tour was curtailed by illness, and a second one was scrapped due to family drama. “Chasing Pavements”, which is up for Record of the Year at this year’s Grammy Awards, didn’t get as much airplay as it could have, due to an Internet myth that the title referred to gay sex. There really isn’t a convenient time for things to go wrong, is there?
Last Thursday, Denver finally got to check out Adele live in person, and as an added bonus, she brought fellow Brit James Morrison along for the ride. Since I found out about the show through her Facebook group, I didn’t even know about the opening act until a few days before the show. Let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed with the billing, considering some of the weak acts I’ve seen recently as opening acts (Jazmine Sullivan, I’m still holding a grudge).
The beauty of the James Morrison set is that most folks kinda knew who he was, but weren’t so fanatic that it got out of hand. My friend Brian momentarily confused him with James Blunt, and I can sadly see where he’s coming from. When James tours the UK in March and April, I’m sure it will be mayhem, but the Denver crowd was enjoying it without being obnoxious. You could tell that he was winning over the non-familiar as the show went on, though.
Musically, the set was terrific, as it was only James on guitar, with another guitar player and a keyboard player. He did a great job of going back and forth between music from “Undiscovered” and “Songs for You, Truths for Me”, and while the audience may not have known a lot of the music, they gave him a much warmer reception than the usual opening act gets. For songs that needed some percussion, he utilized an effects box to loop some vocals and tambourine to great effect.
Honestly, I can’t think of anything that was bad about the set. My friend Brian was hoping that Adele would come out and sing Nelly Furtado’s part on “Broken Strings”, but James actually sang it on his own, with a very decent falsetto to differentiate between the first and second verses. It was odd to me to hear it buried in the middle of the set, knowing how big it is in his homeland currently, but the overall flow of the set was great. Showstopper of the set was “When I Was Little” from the new disc.
The highlight of the opening act for me, though, was actually meeting James Morrison during the intermission. Here’s how different things are between the UK and the US: “Songs for You” was on sale for $10, and by purchasing it, you got to meet James in between sets. Not being one to pass up a photo op or a deal on music, I bought the CD and got my golden ticker (or wristband). He seemed to be in great spirits and enjoying the interaction, and I got momentarily tongue-tied, before telling him that I knew of several friends in the UK that would have loved to have seen him perform acoustically like that. He gave me that “sure…whatever you say” type look, but it didn’t really matter. The show was great, and I already felt like I’d gotten my money’s worth.
Big props to Adele on the intermission, because it was one of the fastest changeovers I’ve ever seen at a concert. Granted, they didn’t have a huge band set-up, but even the smaller bands seem to think there has to be a minimum of 45 minutes in between sets. With this show, Adele was out on stage within a half-hour of Morrison’s set ending. Of note for me was the playing of “Single Ladies” in full with the lights down as the band took the stage. Beyonce suddenly gets to play “hype man” for an Adele show…who knew?
The set started off with “Cold Shoulder”, and it was a stellar start. Her band was tight, and at times they let loose with a seriously funky groove. I’m not sure if it was just a bad mix, or if she intentionally planned this, but at times her vocal just dropped right into the middle of the band, simply being a part of the mix. It worked most of the time, but once or twice the vocals got lost in the power of the drums, but that’s a minor complaint at best.
With only one CD under her belt, Adele had to rely on a few covers. Of course, she played Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love”, which hushed the crowd, but she also rolled out soul classics from the likes of Etta James and Sam Cooke. While definitely enjoyable, it was the original stuff that the crowd really got into. “Hometown Glory” had some amazing impact live, “Crazy For You” showed strength in simplicity, and “Best For Last” had the crowd clapping along on the chorus as Adele pounded away on the bass guitar.
With all of the great music, you would think that there would be some downside, but really, there wasn’t. Adele couldn’t have been more sweet, and her banter with the audience came across as extremely genuine. She was all apologies on the first two missed shows, and even braced the audience for a muddy mix with the bass (although it sounded find to me). By the end of the show, I really wanted to just hang out with her. Either she’s got an amazing acting persona, or she really is the girl from school who was always cracking self-effacing jokes.
Highlights for me were “Daydreams”, which was just her and a guitar, and of course “Chasing Pavements”. I felt bad for Adele, because for new acts like her, that should be their shining moment where the whole crowd sings along, but “Chasing” really isn’t a sing-along song, is it? Trust me when I say that there was no disappointment with the set. The audience actually wanted to give her a second encore, but the house lights came up after the first one, and we were off to our cars much too soon for our liking. Don’t get me wrong…it was a full show, and I could have stood through another whole show like that. A show like that doesn’t come around often, so I know I’ll remember this one fondly for quite some time.