Sunday, August 21, 2016

Adele - So Nice, I Saw Her Thrice!

During her eight-show run at Staples Center, I saw Adele two nights in a row. Even though the setlist remained the same, both shows were totally enjoyable. And I had seen her already earlier this summer at Glastonbury (I didn't know she would be headlining Glastonbury when I bought the LA tickets last December). Getting tickets wasn't easy - three of us tried right when the tickets went on sale and spent over an hour in the virtual waiting room cursing AXS, but we lucked out in the end. Note: this review contains spoilers.

I first saw Adele at the Greek Theater in 2011. I had just hopped on the “21” bandwagon and decided to go to the show on the spur of the moment, buying a single seat when a few tickets remained on the day of the show. I was really enchanted by her easy-going stage presence and chatter. Picking Wanda Jackson as an opening act solidified Adele as an old soul. Many of us sang along with the songs and all could relate to the tales of heartbreak that made the album such a sensation. Who knew that we’d have to wait five years for the next album and Adele would have surgery, find a soulmate and have a kid in the meantime, all before “25”?

I got the pleasure of seeing Adele at Glastonbury earlier this summer. I’m still working on a story about that festival, but I have to say Adele was one of the highlights. She had said she was afraid to play for such a huge crowd, but she held that crowd of 150,000 in the palm of her hand. She shared stories of her own Glastonbury experiences and her love of the festival. She was self-deprecating yet powerful. There is nothing to compare to being in a reverent crowd that huge, all of whom know the words to all the songs and don’t mind standing in the mud and rain for two hours just to be with her. This collection of her quotes from Glastonbury shows that she manages to be totally herself in front of the crowd, as if she were just out to happy hour with some girlfriends telling stories. 

I don’t think I’ll ever have another Adele experience like Glastonbury, but the Staples Center shows were still great. The first show was Tuesday, August 9, and we had good seats, on the club level with a side view of the stage.  So I was much closer than I’d been at Glastonbury where we stood pretty much in the middle of a huge field.  

Adele began the show ascending from below to a small stage toward the rear of the arena and performed “Hello.” She made her way to the main stage and sang “Hometown Glory,” utilizing the big screens behind her to show footage of London and then footage of LA to elicit the predictable screams of recognition from the crowd. After “One and Only,” she paused to chat a bit and let us know that she only had a couple upbeat songs and she would be playing them fairly quickly. And she reminded us that even though they sound upbeat, they really are just as depressing as her other songs. She then launched into “Rumor Has It.”

Another highlight was “Skyfall,” and she told the story of how she got to fulfill the dream of doing a Bond theme. I love the Bond themes and hers just soars. 

She moved to a smaller stage in front of the main stage with a few band members to perform a country version of “Don’t You Remember” that she said was influenced by her love of Alison Krauss. She also did a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” on that stage, and she asked everyone to turn the flashlights on their cell phones on to light up the room. It was a beautiful effect.

There were many breaks where she told stories and gave us a peek into her stream of consciousness thinking. We learned she loves LA, particularly the Bristol Farms grocery stores where she can find many of her favorite British food imports. She talked about how much she loves America and how she had fantasized about being American: "I always wanted a locker, a prom, and an accent." Seeing her two nights in a row, I heard many of the same stories, but it didn’t feel scripted. Her exuberance and ease with the crowd felt genuine. On the first night, she called up two gay guys who she had noticed were dancing very animatedly, and they invited her to their upcoming nuptials. On the second night, she called up three eleven-year-old girls who nearly fainted with excitement, and she apologized to their mothers for all the swearing she would be doing during the show. 

For the Wednesday show, I sat in the first row of the upper level toward the rear of the arena. While it was less of an immediate experience, I could see the screens better and appreciated the lighting and effects more from this angle.

Probably the most moving song was “Chasing Pavements.” Adele gave a long introduction about how this was the song that allowed her to break through in the US and she invited the audience to sing along. She had moved to the stage in the rear of the floor area and they dropped curtains on all sides of it and projected her image on the curtains which created a neat effect. She then delivered “Someone Like You” before closing the set from that stage with “Set Fire to the Rain,” while rain fell where the curtains had been hanging.  It was quite a dramatic close to the show.  

Of course, she returned for an encore, performing “When We Were Young,” and then giving us one final chance to dance to “Rolling in the Deep.”  Confetti rained down and the nearly two-hour show came to a close. Go see this show if you can. Her albums may be titled and centered on her specific ages, but she's a talent for the ages.  

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