Review: Adele at Adelaide Oval

Adele proved why she’s one of music’s true superstars with a memorable concert at Adelaide Oval on Monday night.

The rise and rise of Adele is one of pop music’s great modern success stories. After just three albums of blue-eyed soul and pop ballads, Adele is rivalled only by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift in the contemporary megastar stakes having sold more than 100 million records. But I doubt even Queen Bey or T-Swift would have the star power to host more than 70,000 fans at a concert in Adelaide; the biggest this town’s ever witnessed surpassing the crowds of rock dinosaurs such as The Rolling Stones and U2, who have many decades worth of material compared to Adele’s (comparatively) brief nine-year tenure in the spotlight.

The upgraded sports stadium (sorry, boutique stadium) looked splendid as the sun set to the west with St Peter’s Cathedral illuminated to the north-east of Adelaide Oval for Adele’s first visit. The in-the-round set-up of the stage was parked in the middle of the Oval with a huge 360-degree screen featuring close ups of Adele’s closed eyes facing out from the stage to all corners of the Oval. With no support act, it was Adele and only Adele who we were to see tonight.

Just before 8pm, almost 30 minutes after she was supposed to hit the stage, the eyes on the screen opened and rose above the stage to the opening sounds of 25’s first single, Hello. Adele glowed in the middle of the raised stage (with the band below) in a sparkling gown on a pretty much bare stage – the only prop a bar stool to hold her mugs of hot honey. It’s always a risk to bang out one of your signature hits first up, but the show-stopping power ballad got everyone’s attention as the 28-year-old singer, who was surreptitiously brought out to the middle of the Oval moments before the concert in an equipment box, showcased that famous voice as it echoed through the stadium.

Adele followed Hello with two downbeat selections Hometown Glory (complete with images of Adelaide on the 360 screen) and One and Only, before stopping for one of her many chats with the crowd. No matter how many times you’ve heard her speak, it is always a pleasant shock to hear Adele talk after she sings. She sings like an angel but speaks like a cockney sailor. This is part of her down to earth appeal: she may be a megastar but she’s one of us – more front bar singer who you could have a drink with after her set than manufactured diva. And she has an uncanny ability to connect with 70,000 people by telling mischievous, personal stories while waving and saying hello to various members of the audience in front of her.

She apologises for her potty mouth before asking the crowd if they want to have a good time before apologising again as all her songs are “pretty fucking miserable”. But her next suite of songs is upbeat, as I’ll Be Waiting, Rumour Has it and Water Under the Bridge get part of the crowd off their chairs to have a bit of a dance.

Her set of hits and album favourites were interspersed with extended chats as the Grammy winner recounts many personal anecdotes including the stories behind some of her biggest hits. She also interacts with the crowd on many occasions: a 10-year-old gave her a veil to protect her from insects (her Brisbane set saw her battle biting insects) and she remarked that she looks like Muriel from Muriel’s Wedding, a favourite film of hers growing up. As a child she said she pictured her life being similar to the Australian classic’s protagonist. How wrong she was.

It wouldn’t be a South Australian event without a power failure, as a chord was knocked out of place to cut the power below stage briefly. Adele took this interlude in her stride to allow various audience members to tell corny dad jokes before she told a slightly naughty one herself. After this brief delay, Adele banged out one of the show’s highlights, the early single Chasing Pavements, before disappearing to the spectacle of fireworks and smoke after Set Fire to the Rain.

Adele’s first exit was followed by the night’s cheesiest element: Kiss Cam, which rolled around the audience to capture kissing couples. This was slightly amusing at first but got old quite quickly.

The encore featured a trio of smash hits. The moving 25 ballad When We Were Young got the crowd weepy before finishing with the two tracks from 21 that consolidated her position as a modern superstar: the power soul of Rolling in the Deep before leaving the stage to the strains of hit ballad Someone Like You.

Adele’s debut Adelaide concert was a masterclass in Stadium Concert 101: the pyrotechnics and technology, though spectacular, weren’t the stars of the show, but rather were there to help propel Adele’s catchy catalogue and personality to the 70,000 strong crowd. Plus, the girl from Tottenham knows how to tell a yarn as well as sing a tune. It was hard not to be enchanted.

Adele plays Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on March 18 and 19 and Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium on March 23, 25 and 26.

Header photo: Morne De Klerk/Getty Images

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