Adele. Pepsi Center. 07.16.16
Adele has an insane connection with her fans. Her latest album, 25, sold something like 50 trillion copies the week it came out. She didn’t stream it at first, because why would she? The album literally sold more than all the other albums released in 2015 combined…or something like that. Adele songs are all written in gold. And there is no denying her phenomenal voice; it is as powerful as a voice can get. Her vocal delivery is as perfect as it is effortless as well. The 28-year-old Brit has managed to maintain a mass appeal that is almost unheard of. She touches the hearts, minds, and tear ducts of grandchildren and grandparents alike, as well as almost everyone in between. She casts a powerful spell. Not all are susceptible to her magic though. I used to count myself among the minority. That was before I saw her perform to a capacity crowd at the Pepsi Center.
“How many of you got tickets for Christmas?”
(thousands of voices ring in affirmation)
“Well, here I am. Ho ho ho!”
I tried to get Adele tickets back in November. Not because I really liked Adele all that much, but because I thought they would make a good Christmas present for my wife. Queuing up a half hour before tickets went on sale, I didn’t realize I was bound for disappointment until it took an hour before the system even allowed me a chance to purchase. By that time, they were sold out and already ranging from $400 to over $5000 each on StubHub. After screaming obscenities at vulturous scalpers through my computer screen, I went in search of an alternative gift. It wasn’t until eight months later (and an hour before the show started) that I was able to score great seats at less than face value. When the lights went down and the giant eyes came to life on the big screen, we were close enough to count the sequins on Adele’s dress as they sparkled from the center of the crowd during “Hello”.
“How many of you got tickets for your birthday?
How many of you are celebrating your birthday?
Well, thanks for celebrating with me!”
The journey from the center of the arena to the main stage was lit by camera phones and shrieks of joy. Once there, “Hello” transitioned into “Hometown Glory”. London landmarks gave way to the Denver skyline, as the lyrics changed from ‘my hometown’ to ‘your hometown.’ What could have come across as gimmicky at some mainstream country show, somehow rang true as an honest tribute to the city in which Adele was an honored guest. The cynic in me didn’t want to show any emotion, but there was something so enchanting about the way she sang “the wonders of my world”, while images of the Rocky Mountains towered above her, that I just couldn’t help myself. It had been less than ten minutes since she had first appeared and I was already powerless against her charm.
“How many of you did not want to come tonight?”
(only someone with extreme self-confidence would ask that question, so when a few men confirmed, she had the perfect response.)
“Thank you for being a good sport and making my show sold out.”
Speaking as one of those people who don’t listen to Adele’s music on a regular basis, my biggest complaint is the lack of variation across her songs. There is no denying that voice of hers, but I feel like her albums are very vanilla. I do believe her lack of range is by design though. Keeping it safe is what has allowed her to appeal to so many, while offending so few. Last night didn’t exactly change my mind when it came to her songs, but her tremendous personality and sense of humor provided a depth that I wasn’t aware of before. She could have performed the entire concert solo and I would have been entertained. The fact that the screen eventually dropped after “One and Only”, exposing twenty musicians, including a whole crew of extraordinary backup singers, just added to the spectacle.
“My music isn’t that much fun…I hope you knew that.
I do have a couple upbeat ones…
let’s get them out of the way, so we can cry.”
Self-confidence gave way to self-awareness as the crowd came alive for “Rumour Has It” — one of the few songs you could actually dance to. There was a very classic feel to the presentation. The stage was framed in solid light, while Adele’s image projected in black-and-white like some movie star from the 50’s. The stellar band was separated into strings, percussion, and voice; all indispensable to each composition, but also completely anonymous and respectful of who they were there to serve. For a diva, Adele was surprisingly approachable as well. When she asked questions, she made it a point to listen to the answers coming from the front rows. There was a dialogue between her and her fans. When she saw a guy in a purple shirt, passionately singing along, she invited him and his friends on stage to take a selfie.
“…being a drama queen, I wrote a song about it.”
Every song came with an introduction. Every interlude came with a story.
“Water Under the Bridge” was about “not giving up.”
Denver’s current heatwave caused her to be poolside quite a bit, which caused her fair skin to burn because she didn’t get the “cream in all the right places.”
Things have changed for her and her friends because of “serious relationships, or husbands, or kids, or carrers, or…touring the world.” “I’m not bragging, I’m just sayin’.”
The only reason she did “Skyfall” was because it was the 23rd James Bond film and she was 23 years old at the time. There was no video for the song because “I normally look like Halle Berry, but I was very pregnant and swollen at the time.”
“I don’t usually do videos. I usually do an album and then disappear for five years.”
She claimed her bum was “too big for this chair” when she sat down, accompanied by nothing more than a stand-up bass and acoustic guitar, to perform “Million Years Ago” (yet another song about what it was like to be young, by a woman who doesn’t seem to understand how young she still is).
Excitement about seeing Beyoncé in concert was only outweighed by excitement at having discovered Bed Bath & Beyond. She is no longer a Target girl.
“Did you ever have someone in your life you wish weren’t? I have, hence my albums.” Female backup singers were reintroduced for an acoustic version of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”. “I did a music video for that one where my dress was fucking flying around...sorry if I offended anyone.”
“I am missing my boyfriend, so I’ll sing it for him.
I am not married.
I don’t know why we aren’t.”
“Make You Feel My Love” might have been my favorite moment of the night. It could not have been handled better. Phone torches lit the entire arena while she brought Dylan’s piece to life in a way he never would have been able to. An invisible piano and strings subtly backed her up, while the shadow of a pedal steel could be seen through the curtain. It was the perfect example of why people cry in Adele’s presence. She followed that cover with “Sweetest Devotion”, ensuring the tears would continue to fall as she made her way back to the center stage. Once there, she got silly with her own reflection inside a box of sheer material while joking that she can’t use the word “hello” anymore because her friends always think she’s “taking the piss out of them.”
“This is like doing twenty lunges, I hope it lifts my bum…
I’m out of breath, imagine if I had to dance.”
Watching Adele crouch down to pose for group selfies from every angle of the arena might have been the most hilarious part of the evening, but it just another example of how much she gives to her fans. The next song (the one that gave her “a career in America,”) was “Chasing Pavements”, and it gave way to the song she hopes “people remember me by,” “Someone Like You”. That ballad was dedicated to the victims of the Bastille Day attack in Nice. “I would have dedicated ‘Make You Feel My Love’, but it would have been the fifth time on this tour that I’ve dedicated that song to victims of a terrorist attack.” Once again, tears. And those tears were matched by rain. The torrential downpours soaking the big screen at the main stage were augmented with constant showers coming down from rafters all around her mini stages as she “Set Fire to the Rain” to close out the main set.
“The altitude is affecting me.
I have oxygen back stage..Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah…
I’m hoping I need it!”
Performing in Denver can be hard on artists, so when Adele mentioned the altitude early in the set, there was some concern. But five minutes after descending into the middle of the arena, she was back on the main stage reflecting on what it was like “When We Were Young”. Larger-than-life childhood photos were shared with her fans, as if we were all family at an annual reunion. She wasn’t showing any signs of struggling and was still going strong when the night ended with an explosion of confetti, but that didn’t stop twenty thousand people from helping her sing “Rolling in the Deep”.
“Thank you for coming, I had a great time“
When the show finished, Adele disappeared and the house lights came on immediately. It was slightly earlier than expected, so maybe the oxygen really was calling. A few more songs (and stories) would have been nice, but there was hardly anything to complain about. As we made our way into the atrium, tiny scraps of paper with lyrics scrawled across them were stuck to the bottoms of our shoes. The one floating in my half-finished cocktail said “Thanks for Coming”. Even in her absence, Adele was still making a connection.
One and Only
Rumour Has It
Water Under the Bridge
Million Years Ago
Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
Make You Feel My Love
Someone Like You
Set Fire to the Rain
When We Were Young
Rolling in the Deep