Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week 9

Live at the Royal Albert Hall by Adele

Who's ready for some sangin'?

Long story short? I think that Adele's live album more than either of her full-length studio releases or her iTunes EPs. This one is recorded brilliantly and holds a few gems that only a live recording would yield.

This album is part of a DVD/CD combo from her show on September 22, 2011. The band sounds great, and whoever was running the board knew exactly what he or she was doing! This recording has a front-row seat sound that gives the you plenty of her voice with a good balance of band, backup vocals, and even the rest of the audience.

The show starts with a pretty straightforward version of "Hometown Glory" on which Adele takes a short scat solo. It's sparse in arrangement, but she doesn't hold anything back vocally. Nice way to start the set.

She follows with "I'll Be Waiting," "Don't You Remember," and "Turning Tables," all of which are pretty straightforward. 

Next up, "Set Fire to the Rain." This one has all the power the studio version evokes - rich piano, plenty of strings, and lots of energy. Speaking of strings, they're a standout on this one. A little forward in the mix to me, which makes a great platform for the listener to feel power of this song.

The next song is one of three covers from this album entitled "If It Hadn't Been for Love." This is a swampy, bluegrass tune from Nashville's The Steeldrivers. Interestingly enough, Adele's cover is about as true to the original as you can get. This one gets a set change, trading in the string section for some guitars and banjo, full-sized kit for a 3-piece, and piano for a melodica no less! Definitely one to check out to hear something a little outside of her typical neo-soul thing.

The next tune "My Same" is the first from the show that's not from the 21 album. The original has a good bit of digital effects, and it's pretty nice to hear her do it with basically a jazz trio set up. Very cool smoky jazz lounge thing going on. One of my favorites.

Following "My Same" are some energetic, but once again pretty much studio copies of "Take It All" and "Rumour Has it." "Right as Rain" follows with a rock'n'roll ending, but yet again, not really a departure from the studio version.

I'm not sure why, but the live version of "One and Only" deserves mentioning. It's just powerful. There's obviously lots of emotion in this one, an even though its in one of the largest, most well-known performing venues in the world, it still feels very personal. I like the CD recording, but watching it on YouTube will give you a better idea of what I mean.

"Love Song" is next. Stock. Following is another tune that gets the strings-on-steroids treatment largely with the same effect as "Set Fire": "Chasing Pavements." This is my favorite song from the 19 album in part because of the vulnerability of the lyrics, and in part because of the accompanying layers. Just some great orchestration here.

Next up is the second cover featured in this set, Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me." Maybe the best performance on the album. It's an incredibly simple tune, but for a lot of songs that's what makes them so special. It's just Adele and a piano and she sings the crap out of it. Really gorgeous.

Honestly, I didn't know that the next song was a cover until a good friend mentioned it the first time we listened to this record. Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" is a gem. Like the Raitt cover before it, this is just voice and piano, but still rich with emotion.

Second-to-last is my favorite from this record "Someone Like You." Why is it my fav? Simple. She has the audience sing the chorus a couple of times and every time it makes me laugh out loud. The recording is excellent and with a high quality audio file and some nice headphones, you'll have to try to keep from looking around you for the extra voices!

This one rounds out with none other than "Rolling in the Deep." Great way to end it. Even though they've been in the same room for about an hour and a half, the audience is all over it - clapping and singing throughout. Adele's voice is still strong, as are the rest of the band, strings, and backup singers. 

In conclusion, Adele's Live at The Royal Albert Hall is one of my favorite live recordings ever, especially out of the last three decades or so. The venue is great. The band is great. The audience is great. And Adele doesn't disappoint either. If you already like what she's done in studio, you won't be disappointed with this one, plus the DVD comes with plenty of extras that you won't get anywhere else. Chiggity-check it out!

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