5 August 2016, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
A superb month of concerts culminated in the Adele show I didn’t think I would get to see. Not so secret trick: great seats are released just a few hours before show time. If you can’t get one online, call the ticket phone line. Buy a face value seat instead of outrageous broker prices.
Three nights after Barbra, here was Adele at the Staples Center, for the first of eight sold-out shows. Start time was advertised for 7.30pm; the lights went down and the crowd roared at 8.20pm.
Immediately I thought about a review that I had kept for nearly 30 years by Sydney Morning Herald music critic Bruce Elder, about a John Farnham concert I had been at in December 1987. It began, “In 17 years of rock concert reviewing I have never witnessed a public outpouring of emotion and goodwill quite like that which John Farnham received from the packed Entertainment Centre on Friday night.” I remember being in that crowd – I was also reviewing – and feeling that insanely ecstatic emotion and goodwill. I felt something like it last Tuesday at Barbra’s show, but that was largely an older crowd. Those in last night’s youthfully exuberant audience for Adele were so intensely joyous at her appearance that I thought of Farnham 29 years ago, an artist so beloved that his very presence was like a religious experience for those there. This is the current status of 28-year old Adele, who told us she was up to show number 64 of something like 107 shows on her world tour. Imagine walking out on stage to that reaction night after night. No wonder she talks to her adoring fans like she’s with her mates down at the corner pub. She must be constantly grounding and re-grounding herself. How else do you take that in and stay real?
Forget Beyonce or Rihanna or any of those other one-named female superstars, or even the two-named Taylor Swift; this curvacious, cheeky, self-deprecating artist in the magnificent designer gowns – Burberry on stage; Dolce & Gabbana on screen in an amazing sequence taken from the “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” video – has got to be the biggest female pop icon in the world today. The self-deprecation is one of numerous similarities Adele has to the senior diva, Barbra, as well as super long fingernails, funny stage patter, a focus on singing rather than prancing with gymnastics, and a voice like no other. Although she would have known that Barbra was on that stage just three nights before, she made no mention of her, but instead went into a long rave about how the music idol that she obsesses over the most is the gorgeous, wistful Alison Krauss. She googles Alison regularly, all but stalks her, and at no point in that rave was there the slightest hint of irony based on an awareness that so many fans out there feel the same way about Adele.
The band behind her – revealed after the first few songs behind the huge two-section angled screen – numbered at least 18 people, none of them introduced (nor had Barbra introduced her band). They played all of Adele’s well-known songs with depth and power, but at times it was as if Adele could have sung a capella, such was the complete power of her beautifully formidable voice. It’s not a Barbra voice – that is God’s voice – but it’s inarguably spectacular. It’s a voice where no special effects are required, and yet there were imaginative visuals on the screens (the childhood photos especially revealing to show just how far she has come), and a drop down four-sided screen that enclosed her on the centre stage, displaying more images of her like holograms. Also there was a veritable rain room (for “Set Fire To The Rain”, of course), and the most paper confetti I have ever seen drop down from above, with each and every piece (there had to have been hundreds of thousands of pieces) featuring a song title or lyric in Adele’s own handwriting.
She brought a cute child on stage that she spotted in the audience, talked a lot about herself and her life, listened to things the audience was shouting out, asked them questions, engaged in individual conversations, walked through the crowd from stage to stage, happily allowed small cameras and cell phones, asked for cell phone flashlights for one song, and during one crazy sequence on the centre stage she squatted down several times to pose for selfies with members of the audience close by. At all times she radiated amazement and gratefulness for her success, for the love surrounding her. She told us she had just moved into the house she’d bought in LA and had discovered Bristol Farms. You could imagine her shopping there, perhaps doing a shopping trolley karaoke session with James Corden or just an unsuspecting check-out chick.
Song highlights were many. She started with “Hello” – of course she did. She finished with “Rolling In The Deep.” She introduced “Someone Like You” with a lengthy preamble about how the song was written and how it has changed her life. She sang most of the 21 and 25 albums and probably several from 19, which I don’t have. The two-hour show would have featured at least 40 minutes of talking. She loves to talk. She told us to tell her to shut up if she talked too much, but of course we loved it.
Importantly, Adele gives real value for money. In an era where top acts command easily between $250 and $500 (plus fees) for best level seats, Adele’s top price of $150 for a two-hour show where she interacted with every section of the audience and provided a production that was technically unfussy and yet spectacular was incredibly good value.
I am so glad I went.