There is something to be said about a film that delivers exactly what it promises. And Adele’s brand-new “Live at the Royal Albert Hall” concert flick does exactly that. There are no backstage vignettes, biographic set pieces or interviews with breathless fans. Instead, as the title implies, there is just Adele, live at the Royal Albert Hall (or, as she puts it, “Royal Albert F—ing Hall”).
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Because rather than fill 90-odd minutes with artfully acute black-and-white montages or various bits of fly-on-the-wall ephemera, director Paul Dugdale makes the very wise decision to feature nothing more than Adele’s bright, brilliant face, her contagious cackle, her rather impressive grasp of profanity and, of course, that voice. It’s the catalyst behind her massive 21 album (10 million sold worldwide!) and the entire Adele sensation, really. And for those fans yet to see her live, thanks to ongoing vocal issues , that’s really all they could ask for.
Because “Live,” which hits stores November 29, presents Adele at the height of her powers (and humors), onstage for an emotional homecoming show at one of the planet’s truly iconic venues (“I’ve seen the Spice Girls here and Enrique Iglesias here!” she gushes). Filmed less than two months ago — which may explain the lack of bells and whistles — it is a simple, straightforward, almost Spartan concert film, the kind of thing you’d watch on PBS (and not in movie theaters worldwide, which fans will get the chance to do ).
While that may sound like a criticism, it strangely works in this context, mostly because it lets Adele shine. She sings the hell out of songs like “Hometown Glory,” “I’ll Be Waiting,” “Turning Tables” and “Chasing Pavements,” breaks down in tears following a truly epic “Someone Like You,” and vamps through “Rumor Has It.” She goes huge on “Set Fire to the Rain,” belts out Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” lilts through a fizzy cover of the Steeldrivers’ “If It Hadn’t Been for Love” and, in a truly powerful moment, dedicates her version of Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” to the late Amy Winehouse.
Of course, there are also the lighter moments, like how she endlessly drinks warm honey out of a mug with a Dachshund printed on the front, expresses her sheer amazement at playing a venue the caliber of the Royal Albert Hall (“I’m sh–ting myself!” is how she puts it), dishes on former flames, professes her love for Dolly Parton, continuously waves to fans in the audience (even when she’s singing a crushing breakup tune) and laughs her way through a false start of “Take It All” (“That was a sh– note; let’s start it again”). And “Live At the Royal Albert Hall” presents it all.
In a lot of ways, it comes about as close as any concert film to replicating the experience of attending a real concert. In the screening I attended Tuesday, I actually had to remind myself not to clap at the conclusion of a couple songs. I’m not making that up, either (though it would make a nice front-of-box quote). And in that regard, it is a tremendous success; you definitely get the full experience. Adele is luminous, compelling, funny and profane throughout, and like I said, her voice is in tiptop shape. So if you’re in the 90 percent of fans who own 21 but have yet to see her live, you’re definitely going to love it. If you were expecting high art, best to look elsewhere. Then again, it’s not like the title of the film didn’t give you ample warning.
Have you seen Adele live? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!