LAS VEGAS – Midway through her first song on opening night for a residency many never expected to materialize, Adele mouthed the words, “I’m so happy.”
As the adoring throng of 4,100 forgiving fans blasted the chorus of – naturally – “Hello” back at the British superstar on Friday, Adele grinned, her nerves visibly loosening.
Yes, she was happy.
Her devotees – many of whom spent thousands of dollars for the rights to brag about attending the first of 32 “Weekends with Adele” concerts at Caesars Palace – were happy.
And whatever concerns about the production that caused Adele, 34, to cancel her original slate of shows in January less than 24 hours before kickoff, well, her instincts were prescient.
This retooled expression of artistry is a spectacular two hours, even for casual Adele fans (though given the ticket prices, this multi-generational audience was filled with the most steadfast enthusiasts).
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Between the gleaming video elements commandeering the length of the massive Colosseum stage and her vocal curlicues on songs such as “Take it All” from 2011’s sophomore album, “21” and the gently galloping hit, “Water Under the Bridge,” Adele’s presentation thrilled .
She also didn’t dodge any apologies.
“Thank you so much for coming back to me,” she told the crowd after singing a sublime “Easy on Me,” performed as she sat next to pianist Eric Wortham II.
It was the first of several mea culpas for stiffening the multitude of fans who had traveled from around the world to attend her initial residency.
But Adele was blatantly sincere when she said at the end of the show that canceling, “was the worst feeling I’ve ever had, but the best decision I ever made.”
What is apparent about “Weekends with Adele” is that every show will differ thanks to her unfiltered, casual interactions and storytelling.
Her look was pure glam – a figure-hugging dark gown (with black socks that she gleefully exposed) and luxurious honey-colored hair spilling onto her bare shoulders.
But the vibe was “have a few pints at and English pub” – bawdy, emotional and completely unscripted (“Were you at a pool party?” she teased some latecomers). She attributed her chattiness to nerves, but any Adele acolyte knows that she could spend the full two hours of the show delivering hilarious tales laced with profanity.
While there was plenty of audience interaction (fans in the lower level were treated to her wading out to chat before belting “When We Were Young” from the aisles), Adele clearly wanted the focus of this show to hinge on musicianship.
On every song, whether a newcomer (“I Drink Wine,” from her Grammy-nominated album “30”), or catalog classic (“Send My Love [To Your New Lover],” performed under hot pink lighting), Adele’s voice was as impeccable as her sculpted eyebrows and French manicure.
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While the show opens quietly, with only Adele and Wortham onstage, its eventual introduction of their six-piece band, and, during highlight “Skyfall,” a 24-piece string section, makes clear that despite the spectacle, the essence is the song .
Adele remained in the same dress throughout the show, only leaving the stage briefly after about 90 minutes to make way for the production elements that accompany “Set Fire to the Rain” – a stage-length waterfall, fire clashing with it from the floor and a drowning piano.
The behemoth stage also includes walls of video screens that envelop the room – Adele’s expressive eyes and luminous smile made frequent appearances – and sliding platforms for band members.
Adele adeptly sprinkled the 20-song setlist with some of her own favorites, such as the soul-pop vocal triumph that was “God Only Knows,” along with gotta-plays “Rumor Has It,” which pulsed with red lighting, and the eternally aching “Someone Like You.”
But she also infused her song selection – and placement – with deliberation.
A boisterous “Rolling in the Deep,” its fist-pounding march complemented by Adele and her three backup singers smacking their hips, seemed like an obvious finale.
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Instead, she leaned in on the closing track on “30,” the majestic “Love is a Game.” The combination of strings and organ, a stage bathed in pastel colors and heart-shaped confetti pouring from the rafters steeped the song in cinematic beauty.
As the band steered the song to its final notes, Adele disappeared in a poof of fairy dust, a musical mirage that fans actually – finally – got to see.