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Long overdue, Adele proves she's a star

Posted by James Reed  May 16, 2011 03:02 PM

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(Photo by Robert E. Klein for the Boston Globe)

With the Civil Wars
At: House of Blues, last night

By James Reed
Globe Staff

Adele hadn't even finished her first song when the applause engulfed her last night at the House of Blues. It was deafening, and she seemed humbled. Two years ago, she was yet another popular British singer who hadn't made quite the same dent in this country. In 2011, Adele is finally a star here, with a new record perched atop the Billboard 200 chart for seven weeks and counting and her face gracing the cover of Rolling Stone.

Success suits Adele. It's been a remarkable ascent for an artist so uninvested in trends. While her peers in the pop world peddle artifice (Lady Gaga), sex appeal (Katy Perry), and moon-eyed innocence (Taylor Swift), Adele is on her own road, the one paved with little more than sincerity, talent, and a panoramic voice that's truly a gift.

Her House of Blues show, which sold out months ago, was old-fashioned by today's standards -- moving in its simplicity, flawless in its execution. Whether standing or sitting on a chair emblazoned with weiner dogs in homage to the one she has back home in London, Adele commanded the stage like a veteran performer (she recently turned 23). She was the driving force behind her five-piece band and two singers who filled in the few gaps that Adele's voice didn't.

Playing a cross section of her two albums, "19" and "21," she rode the ups and downs of her songs' various states of mind. On a dime, she switched from lovesick ("Take It All") to saucy ("Rumour Has It"). She saved the best for last, a roaring singalong of "Rolling in the Deep," which, she gleefully pointed out, is the No. 1 song in the US at the moment.

Her penchant for interpreting other artists was on glorious display, too, from the spectral piano rendition of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" (complete with mirrorball) to the bossa nova breeze that wafted through the Cure's "Lovesong." The rustic Americana of "If It Hadn't Been for Love," originally performed by the bluegrass band the SteelDrivers, suggested someone needs to get this woman to Muscle Shoals to make a Southern soul record. ("Adele in Memphis"? Yes, please.)

The Civil Wars, the indie-folk duo of Joy Williams and John Paul White, took a similarly heartfelt approach to their opening set. Led by White on acoustic guitar, the pair exuded an intense chemistry that sometimes prompted Williams to wander over to White's microphone. Never mind that they were standing just two feet from each other: Their performance, just like the music, was strictly about intimacy.

James Reed can be reached at

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About Sound Effects

The latest news, commentary, and reviews on music in Boston and beyond.


Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.

Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.

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