Given her subsequent elevation to the status of the world’s biggest pop star, it seems incongruous to think that in 2007 Adele Adkins was performing in the top room of the Adelphi pub in Leeds.
What was immediately evident that night was that she had an exceptionally good bluesy voice, an entertainingly sweary line in stage patter and was clearly destined for bigger things. Perhaps nobody there would have predicted that by the time of her second album her sales would be in the tens of millions, but then perhaps neither would Adele herself.
Album Number Three arrives burdened by expectation, the kind of ‘event’ record that in the age of digital downloads and streaming the music industry rarely sees these days.
25’s long list of producers – including Greg Kurstin, Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder, Ariel Rechtschaid and Danger Mouse – attest to its somewhat arduous gestation yet those who cherished Someone Like You and Set Fire To The Rain will be reassured that there’s plenty of full-throated ballads here.
The one criticism of I Miss You, When We Were Young and Love in the Dark is that we do seem to have been over this anguished ground a few times before.
The same could well be said of the curtain-raising single Hello but its lamentations, and central hook, strike a deeper chord.
The poppier tone that Max Martin and Shellback bring to Send My Love (To Your New Lover) is less successful and the Kurstin-helmed Water Under The Bridge sounds a little too precision-made for drive time radio.
Far more interesting sonically and lyrically is River Lea where Adele traces her all her hurt back to the waterways near where she grew up over an organ and gospel choir.
But the album’s sweetest moment is its simplest. Million Years Ago is filled with reflections on being trapped in fame’s gilded cage, missing her mother, her friends and how life was once “a party to be thrown” before she became public property. Kurstin sympathetically strips the backing down to acoustic guitar and bass.
More chirpily the record rounds off with an ode to her husband, Sweetest Devotion. “You’re my light, you’re my darkness/You’re the right kind of madness,” she hollers to a twangy guitar accompaniment.
25 may contain no alarms and no real surprises but Adele’s position as pop’s current queen remains assured.