What must it be like for Adele? To see, night after night for more than a year and, as of last night, 111 shows of her Adele Live 2016 tour, masses of adoring fans all around as she launches into her 18-song strong set of hits from three of the biggest albums of the past decade?
At the first of her two Sydney shows on Friday night, Adele greeted fans in the best possible way. “Hello…” went that familiar dusky voice, eliciting rapturous cheers and applause from a crowd of approximately 95,000 who had packed ANZ Stadium—likely the largest-ever for a concert in that space.
If she was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd, the spectacle of an entire city at her feet, Adele—famously on record about her struggles with self-doubt, anxiety and stage fright—did not show it. Seconds after making eye contact with fans in the front, she gasped with surprise, pointing at somebody (or something) that clearly delighted her. Her loyal servants may have come to worship at the literal altar of the biggest pop star in the world, but she is smart—and grounded—enough to offer benevolent benediction from the moment she arrives. Which, in this instance, was 45 minutes late.
The set-up of this tour is an egalitarian nod to her enormous popularity; aware of the crowd size these shows would draw, she places herself directly in the centre, on a stage beneath a dazzling 360-degree screen, surrounded by a pit of her most loyal fans and, just beyond that, a runway that circles the perimetre. It is not an original idea, but in this instance, it is genius.
Halfway through the song, Adele descended the stairs on the western side and embarked on a full journey along the runway, waving, well, hello! To open the show with her monster hit was one thing; to immediately incorporate its central message before kindly asking the audience to propel a chorus on their own shot the show into a different stratosphere. Five minutes in, it was apparent the comfortable energy was unlikely to flag.
And it never did. Just as you do not stream an Adele album and expect a revolution, you don’t come to an Adele show expecting surprises. But that’s okay. What Adele lacks in edge she makes up for in pure entertainment of the old-school variety. Her legendary stage banter was in full effect (“I’ve never seen a crowd this fuckin’ big before!”; “Who here tonight got these tickets for Christmas? Well, ho ho ho, Merry Christmas…”), her gimmicks just daggy enough (a tee-shirt gun!) and her generosity charismatic without being cloying. As with her other Australian shows, Adele personally penned a note to one lucky fan and had it hidden under a seat high above the stage; it is generous and meaningful touches like these that have earned her a legion of loyal fans.
To the music. Again, no surprises. All the hits. All the fan favourites. No sneaky, this-show-only curveballs. Adele does not traffic in that kind of frippery; she doesn’t need to. For “Skyfall”, a men’s choir, all suited up, joined her. (“Come back shirtless tomorrow,” she exhorted them.) As at the Grammys, she was not flawless—after botching the lyrics to “Don’t You Remember”, she corrected herself—but not before thanking “my friend with the earrings down the front” who made her realise her mistake. Humility with honours.
Not once during the show does Adele disappear for a costume change; not once are there artsy interludes that allow her a water or bathroom break. She simply ploughs through her hits with temerity and aplomb; what this punter, no rabid fan but certainly an admire, loves most about the woman? For all her soaring talent, Adele does not read like a performer for whom entertaining is a life-or-death necessity. She is simply there because her fans want her to be—again, just note that crowd size. And despite her stratospheric fame, her armloads of Grammys and her unparalleled chart superlatives, she returns the favour, seeming slightly surprised yet wholly happy we asked in the first place.
Adele Live 2016 continues in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Auckland from March 11-March 26. Limited tickets available at www.livenation.com.au.