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Friday, May 20th, 2011

Rolling In The Deep

Adele at The Air Canada Centre

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt happens far too infrequently, but sometimes the good guys win. Sometimes immense talent, great songs and hard work can triumph over image and marketing and when it does, you get improbably wonderful things like Adele becoming and more importantly remaining pretty much the biggest artist in music for 2011 for months on end, on the strength of her sophomore album 21. Granted, her story is hardly one of an out of nowhere dark horse – her debut 19 already made her a star and garnered her two Grammy awards – but the degree to which 21 has catapulted her into the stratosphere is still remarkable.

That the Toronto stop of her North American tour on Wednesday night was originally booked into the Kool Haus – considerably smaller than the posh environs of Massey Hall where she last performed in 2009 – certainly seemed to imply that people were underestimating her draw, and that the show was moved to the many times larger Air Canada Centre after selling out instantly was representative of just how much bigger – and faster – her fanbase was growing. Granted, it was in theatre configuration, accommodating approximately 5200 patrons instead of the 16000 of the full arena, but if you don’t think she could have easily sold a few thousand more tickets then you’re just not paying attention.

I had the privilege of seeing Adele at an MTV Live taping back in March and so had a sense of how she was live – which is to say wonderfully warm and engaging, with no sense of the stage fright she’s supposedly afflicted with – but that was a short set in front of a maybe a couple hundred people. This would be considerably more on every level, and yet Adele Adkins somehow managed to make an arena show in front of thousands feel just as intimate as that studio performance.

Things opened with a touch of theatricality – with Adele starting “Hometown Glory” from behind a curtain before stepping onstage to rafter-shaking shrieks – but for most of the show, it was all about simple, direct and genuine connection between Adele and her fans, which for all of her prodigious artistic gifts may be her greatest strength. Chatty, conversational and more than a little crude between songs, punctuated by a huge and endearing cackle, Adele was able to make a massive room feel as intimate as a small club or even more like a private performance for some friends in the front room. It’s impossible to overstate the intensity of the personal rapport that seemed to exist between she and almost every one of the thousands in the audience – it’s hard to imagine any other artist of her stature taking stage time to talk about the experiences that informed her songs, her affection for her pet dachshund or gush about bands she’s currently listening to (incidentally, she gave big props to Toronto R&B outfit The Weeknd).

As entertaining as it would likely be to just sit and chat for an hour and a half with Adele, there was no forgetting that music was the order of the evening. Improvisation wasn’t on the menu, save for a few subtle shifts in arrangements, with the emphasis on her huge, expressive voice and playing the songs everyone wanted to hear the way they knew them, but with plenty of verve and as singalong-able as possible – something the house happily obliged, at times creating an almost choral effect. Backed by a seven-piece band, Adele delivered exactly the sort of set you’d expect, comprising most of 21 – often introduced as “new songs” as though they were something to be politely endured before she got to the old favourites instead of the material that brought both her and her fans here on this evening – and a decent amount of 19. The show built to a finale that was completely predictable – “Chasing Pavements” and “Make You Feel My Love” to close the main set and “Someone Like You” and “Rolling In The Deep” making up the encore – but also completely rousing. You don’t need to surprise when you’re this good. Adele is like the friend who goes onto great things, but never forgets where she came from – not “is like”, but “is” – and though musically she trades in broken hearts, there was nothing but love at the ACC on this night.

The Globe & Mail has a feature piece on Adele and also a review of the show. The Toronto Sun, National Post, Toronto Star and Exclaim also have writeups of the evening.

Photos: Adele @ The Air Canada Centre – May 18, 2011
Video: Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
Video: Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”
Video: Adele – “Chasing Pavements”
Video: Adele – “Cold Shoulder”

Interview has a brief talk with Anna Calvi, who has a date at The El Mocambo on May 27.

PJ Harvey discusses the visual side of her art with Spinner.

Pitchfork has an extensive interview with Kate Bush, who released her first album in over five years this week with Director’s Cut. The record is streaming in whole over at NPR.

Stream: Kate Bush / Director’s Cut

New York Magazine and The Chicago Tribune talk to Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen while The Aquarian chats with Ian McCulloch.

Johnny Marr talks up his upcoming projects with Billboard.

The Guardian talks to Brett Anderson and Mat Osman about why the reunited Suede are so fashionable again – just in time for Brett Anderson (the solo artist) to announce the September 26 release of his next record, Black Rainbows. Details on the album at NME.

The second single from Patrick Wolf’s forthcoming Lupercalia now has a video and it indeed confirms that, on this record, Wolf is in his happy place. It’s out June 20.

Video: Patrick Wolf – “House”

Foals discuss possible directions of their next record with aux.tv.

The Guardian, Gigwise and Clash have feature pieces on Friendly Fires, whose new record Pala is out next week and are in town at The Phoenix on May 30.

NME gets some information on the next Muse record from rhythm section Dominic Howard and Chris Wolstenholme.

The Aquarian talks to Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner. They’re at The Kool Haus on Saturday and their new album Suck It And See is out June 7.

Also on the bill are The Vaccines, who have a new video from their debut What Did You Expect From The Vaccines, due out May 31.

Video: The Vaccines – “All In White”

NPR have posted a WFUV radio session with Noah & The Whale, with whom North Country Times, Oregon Music News, The Telegraph and The Edinburgh Evening News have interviews.

James Blake has a new video from James Blake.

Video: James Blake – “Lindesfarne”

Artrocker has a piece from Clock Opera frontman Guy Connelly about writing their latest single “Belongings”, for which they’ve just released a video and are streaming both sides at Soundcloud. DIY also solicits an alphabetized list of… stuff from the band. These guys were one of the more exciting discoveries at SXSW and the lead-up to their debut album verifies that the excitement is justified.

Video: Clock Opera – “Belongings”

Ladytron are streaming the first single from new album Gravity The Seducer at Soundcloud, well in advance of its September 13 release date.

Art Brut are streaming their new record Brilliant! Tragic! over at Paste. They play The Mod Club on June 17 for NXNE.

Stream: Art Brut / Brilliant! Tragic!

And according to Under The Radar, the Friday night of NXNE – June 17 – will also bring Oxford’s Swervedriver back to town for the first time since, well, NXNE 2008. Venue still to be announced but this should be one of the highlights of the festival.

MP3: Swervedriver – “Duel” (live)

IFC has both an interview with Euros and Norman of Jonny and premiered a new video from the duo. They are at The Drake Underground on June 3 and 4.

Video: Jonny – “You Was Me”

They Shoot Music has a video session with Gruff Ryhs, and he’s also the subject of features at Nashville Scene, The Village Voice and Today Online. He has a date at The Horseshoe for June 11.

NPR has posted a World Cafe session with The Joy Formidable.

And with that, folks, things go into vacation mode over the next couple weeks. There’ll still be updates and whatnot, just maybe fewer, probably leaner and almost certainly at odd hours. And any last-minute suggestions of things to see and do in Barcelona are welcome.

By : Frank Yang at 8:34 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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  1. Bruce says:

    Things that make me happy:
    Gravity The Seducer, which couldn’t be a more perfect title for a Ladytron album;
    The Joy Formidable, who tore it up on Conan the other night, complete with BSP-worthy antics at the end of the tune (Whirring);
    and, the return of Swervedriver! I’m hoping to maintain an unbroken string of perfect attendance at their shows here, dating back to the mid-nineties. Just have to work it around that awesome lineup at Dundas Square on the same night!