It isn't every day that Salt Lake City hosts the best-selling artist of the year, and Adele's show at the Gallivan Center proved that popular music can be moving, soulful and far more than the auto-tuned crap that typically gluts the charts.
That's not news to the fans who have made Adele's 21 the year's biggest-selling album so far; they packed the Gallivan Center 5,000 strong to sing along with the big-voiced Brit's tales of heartbreak and woe. And there's little doubt she could have filled an even larger space. When Adele's voice gave out in the spring, forcing her to cancel her May date at The Depot, it had the happy side effect of opening up about 3,800 more tickets to her fans by virtue of the venue move, and they were snapped up in less than an hour when they went on sale.
Thankfully, any vocal issues seem to be history, judging by the impressive set delivered Sunday night that blended the soul-pop hits from Adele's two full-lengths into a cathartic and steamy night downtown.
Adele took the stage accompanied only by a piano for "Hometown Glory" before her large band of instrumentalists and backup singers joined her on the lampshade-adorned set. Cracking jokes almost constantly between sips from a tea cup, Adele had to deal with the noisy adulation of her fans in front of the stage who'd brought signs, gifts and a willingness to shout like crazy between every song.
Clearly, she's dealt with this outpouring of love before, because Adele constantly thanked the audience, waved to various people during her songs and promised to give one raucous fan her teacup when she finished drinking from it.
Her charm went a long way to making the show memorable, but it's truly her voice that makes Adele something special. Songs early in the set like "I'll Be Waiting," "Don't You Remember" and "Turning Tables" instantly turned into singalongs, but many fans were also stunned into silence, staring at either the real Adele or the two screens over the stage emitting her image, as she unleashed waves of soulful wails.
Her cover of a Steeldrivers song, "If It Hadn't Been for Love," showed her willingness to add a little twang to the proceedings (making a bit more sense of the choice of '50s rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson as the opening act), and Adele's other covers also were pretty successful: I preferred the take on Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" to The Cure's "Love Song," but no doubt others would disagree.
"Rumor Has It" and "Right As Rain" were other highlights, and the crowd naturally went nuts for the show-closing "Rolling in the Deep," Adele's biggest hit to date. Given her track record just two albums into her career, it likely won't stay that way.
For those who got there early enough, and paid any attention, Wanda Jackson gave a fine, compact performance of her gritty rock 'n' roll, backed once again by the Dusty 45s as she was at her State Room gig last spring. Her growling vocals are one of the best sounds in rock, if you ask me, and songs like "Fujiyama Mama," "Right or Wrong" and her set-closing "Let's Have a Party" were awesome to hear live once again.
(photos by Meredith Newsome)