Everyone has a list, whether in ink on paper or etched in their minds, of the top living artists they want to see live in concert. My own list has been altered only slightly since music mostly went digital, but a notable addition is that one-name wonder, the British songstress Adele.
After waiting years for her new album, I, along with much of the UK and their internet bandwidth, tried to get tickets for her European arena tour. Two hours of refreshing my browser every 20 seconds later, I had the only tickets I could afford — in the nosebleeds of the O2 arena.
As time slowly crawled toward March, I was full of anticipation and excitement, but also a little bit of dread that she might not be as awe-inspiring as I had hoped. After all, she is only human.
My fears were for naught, and I was wrong about Adele being human: her voice is otherworldly live. She was nearly flawless and the concert, which had no opening act and no intermission or significant break, was two hours of bliss. In between most songs, Adele chatted with the crowd, telling us about her pre-concert life (“they don’t let me out anymore, because I can’t party and mess up my voice. The band parties though, I’ve seen ’em!”). She successfully transformed an enormous arena into an intimate concert space.
The stage was simple, elegant, and the perfect accompaniment to Adele’s voice. Less simple, but awe-inducing in its own right, was a separate, smaller stage in the middle of the arena on which Adele sang several of the last songs of the night, including “Set Fire to the Rain”. During that song, rain poured in a perfect square outline around her, a la The Rain Room and during others, Adele’s live black-and-white image was projected outwards on all four sides (unfortunately, these were harder to photograph). Hat tip to Tait Towers, who did the set construction and design.
As if one beautiful concert wasn’t enough, I heard from an old family friend the day of my first concert and he invited me to the next night’s performance, as he had an extra ticket. How could I say no? It’s not a concert that gets old. This is the sort of opportunity so few people (except, I imagine, performers’ families, the uber-wealthy, and celebrities) are offered, and it was fascinating to see how the show changed — and didn’t — from night to night. The set list stayed the same, and Adele’s banter with the crowd touched on the same subjects, but it all felt organic, and was of course altered by the different fans she brought up onstage and whose handmade signs she sought out in the crowd. My favorite part? Adele cheerfully telling her security team to let some enthusiastic teenage fans closer to the stage because “it’s my f***ing concert, now let them in please!”