Pop star Adele enjoyed a rapturous reception as she opened her world tour with an intimate arena show in Belfast.
The star played 18 songs over two hours, in what was her first UK concert in four-and-a-half years.
Dedicated fans had travelled from Japan and South Africa to see her perform, but Adele also had a message for anyone attending under duress.
“I know some of you have been dragged along,” she joked, “but I’m going to win you over.”
“Although some of my songs get a bit depressing.”
By the end of the night, however, even the steeliest of hearts would have been forced to concede she had brought the goods.
Even if they weren’t moved by the songs – Set Fire To The Rain, Make You Feel My Love, Rolling In The Deep – there was always Adele’s disarming and bawdy humour.
She first addressed the audience 15 minutes into the show, explaining: “They told me not to talk for three songs so my nerves could calm a little.”
After that the floodgates opened. She discussed perspiration (“I need to wipe the puddle off me face”); Bob Dylan (“I couldn’t understand what he was saying”); and being a working mum (“you should have seen me in the dressing room – I had to do an emergency shave on my legs”).
The 27-year-old, who openly admits to suffering stage fright, also talked about her toilet habits for the day.
But for many fans, this no-frills honesty is what makes Adele so endearing – and sets her apart from contemporaries like Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Rihanna.
“She’s just so down to earth. She’s not a superstar, she’s normal,” said Rosemary Shield, who attended the show from Belfast.
“She talked about her wee boy and she talked about going to the zoo. Just normal things that we all do.”
“I love how she acts on and off stage,” agreed Melissa Gordan, who had travelled from Johannesburg for the opening night.
“She’s just human. I think she’s a phenomenal person.”
Hiroki Takahashi, who had flown 18 hours from Saitama, near Tokyo, to attend the concert, added: “She has a powerful energy and an amazing voice.
“My dream has come true.”
The concert began simply enough, with a moody black and white projection of Adele’s eyes on two gigantic silk screens, as the refrain from Hello echoed around the arena.
Then, to the audience’s surprise, the star rose out of a satellite stage in the middle of the auditorium (she had been smuggled underneath it, inside a black box, 10 minutes earlier).
It was one of a small handful of production flourishes in what turned out to be a simple, stripped-back stage show.
For the most part, Adele stood, or sat, at the front of Belfast’s SSE Arena, belting out the hits with a large grin plastered across her face.
There were no pyrotechnics, no video interludes and no costume changes. She wore a black sequinned custom Burberry dress all night, exuding an old school glamour.
“It’s not a Beyonce show,” she noted, drily at one point.
Despite a few jitters at the Grammy Awards two weeks ago, her voice was flawless throughout.
It’s no secret that Adele possesses a powerful set of lungs (a high note on When We Were Young made some people around me gasp) but she refrains from the showboating that ruins many divas’ performances, instead aiming directly for the emotional core of her songs.
The show also highlighted the subtlety of her phrasing, particularly when she dipped into her low register on Million Years Ago – although that may have been helped by the fact she “woke up sounding like Arnold Schwarzenegger” after leaving the air conditioning on in her hotel room.
Further highlights included her Oscar-winning Bond theme, Skyfall, during which searchlights dramatically swept over the arena; and a warm-hearted audience singalong to Someone Like You.
Musically, the songs stayed true to the recordings – except for a playful acoustic take on Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – aided by a 21-piece backing band that included an eight-strong string section.
In the tour programme, Adele said the production was guided by two big questions: “How do I make an arena show feel intimate?” and “how do I put my stamp on a big industrial room?”
The answer turned out to be deceptively simple: Play the hits and have a chinwag.
No doubt the show will develop over the coming months – there are more than 100 dates pencilled into Adele’s diary before November – but the pacing, flow and sound design have already been meticulously and thoughtfully honed.
“This was the best way to kick off our world tour,” Adele declared as she left the stage.
“I could get used to this.”