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Adele One Night Only made for a special that delivered on its promise

The CBS performance and interview combo revealed an artist at the height of her powers—and a TV format that continually undermined it

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Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS

It’s been six years since the last new music from the 15-time Grammy winning Adele. Fans are more than ready for the fourth album, 30. And the musician has just provided a re-entry into her universe via a television special, Adele One Night Only, which aired on CBS, six days ahead of 30’s release.

Adele’s time away has done wonders for her, in many ways. Yes, she looks amazing, but that isn’t just on the outside: From everything Adele shared with Oprah Winfrey, who was tasked with conducting a candid interview with her (segments of which were aired in between songs), Adele has gone through major growth. It was great hearing this from her, and it was great hearing Adele sing, but going back and forth between the performance and the interview was asking for too much of a mood swing from viewers. Interview first, in full; performance second, uninterrupted.


Still, the British singer could not have picked a more perfect location for her celebrity-heavy performance than the Griffith Observatory, one of Los Angeles’ most iconic landmarks. The space is almost as iconic as the Hollywood sign, which falls into the same scenic frame when looking north to the hills of the city. Adele, in her hyper-glamorous floor-length, form-fitting, off-the-shoulder black dress, a sweeping up-do and dangly earrings plus flawless makeup, gave the whole setting an old-world Hollywood feel. Despite her groomed appearance, there was no holding back from Adele. She ripped into each song, both old and new, with enviable confidence.

At just the right time of day into evening, with well-placed lighting, the Observatory looked custom-made for this performance (originally recorded on October 24th) from one of the world’s highest-selling musical artists, who most fans would normally be watching from a faraway seat in a stadium, not so close they could match her lipstick shade—a fantastic neutral matte that everyone needs in their collection, incidentally.

Oprah Winfrey introduced viewers to the special. The longtime talk-show host was one of many celebrities in attendance at this invite-only performance, which also included Drake, Lizzo, Kris Jenner, Donald Glover, Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, Gabrielle Union, and Gordon Ramsey, to name just a few. (The cameras kept cutting to them, in case you missed it.)


Adele started with the song she always begins with: “Hello.” She sounded pitch-perfect (as is expected) and set the tone for the evening. The chart-topping “Easy On Me,” the first song revealed from 30, led into the Academy Award-winning “Skyfall,” which sounded arguably more majestic than it ever has with a full orchestra.

Not only that, but Adele’s well-documented banter was in full effect as she ribbed the crowd, saying, “one night only” didn’t apply to them as she knew most of them and they had spent too many nights with her. It’s a good thing this special was pre-recorded, as her famous pottymouth definitely needs a three-second delay. The “beep” was repeatedly employed during her chatter as she defaulted to her F-bombs, even when she was doing something as innocuous as taking sips of tea.

Now almost pitch-black, the performance returned with “I Drink Wine,” another new song from 30, and tear-jerking fan favorite, “Someone Like You,” which was met with a standing ovation. Adele quipped that it was the first time she could perch, as her dress was too tight to sit down in. She continued to say the whole campaign for 30 was like the 1992 Robert Zemeckis black comedy, Death Becomes Her.

The most unexpected part of the evening was Adele arranging for a gentleman to propose to his girlfriend at the foot of the stairs of the Griffith Observatory, on camera, in the middle of the show, bringing the audience and his fiancée (she said yes) to tears. As soon as she said yes, Adele stepped into the light, guffawing before she began “Make You Feel My Love.” This was sweet, but also random—it could (and maybe should) have been left out altogether.


This led to the most rousing performance of the evening, “Rolling in the Deep,” where Adele had everyone dancing in the aisles with projections of waves against the Observatory, heightening the song’s irresistible pull. Although she’s known for her heartbreak songs, it’s these high-energy belters that are her best work and most effectively showcase the power of her vocals. More of these, please, Adele.

At regular intervals, the performance cut to Adele and Oprah in a gorgeous garden—reminiscent of the Harry and Megan interview—ready to lay it all out. Adele, in an off-white pantsuit and smooth blow-out (plus, once again, flawless makeup) responded to Oprah’s probing questions with honesty and humor, if a bit nervously. They spoke of Adele’s obsession with family, because she never came from one. The conversation also hit her issues with her father’s alcoholism, her own new teetotaler status (“that is one way to get to know yourself”), her 100-pound weight loss, and her current relationship with “super-agent Rich Paul,” and how she’s the most open she has ever been.


Oprah closed by asking if Adele knew what she really wanted, to which she responded, “Peace of mind” and “stability.” Honestly, these were all the questions many of us would want to ask Adele—especially about the weight loss—and Adele was forthcoming. If she’s to be believed, she’s so self-actualized that she may actually not have any material to draw from for the follow-up to 30.

Again, the performance and the interview portions of the special would have worked better as separate segments. It was too much of a shifting of gears to go from the evening outdoor concert at the Griffith Observatory, and Adele’s performance mode, to the bright daylight of the beautiful garden and serious, heart-baring conversation, and back again.


There weren’t as many tears shed as would usually be the case with anything Adele-related. But at many points during the performance, the camera pointed toward the hills, catching the Griffith Observatory, Adele, and the Hollywood sign in its frame, capturing the three icons in a luminous glow, it made for the most eye-watering moments of the special.