It was a dark and stormy night in St. Paul when Adele brought a confetti cannon full of emotion to the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night for the first of two shows.
That’s not some kind of flowery metaphor: The woman who currently holds the title as the best-selling pop artist in the world literally brought cannons filled with tiny bits of paper that she had inscribed with her own lyrics in her own handwriting — “regrets and mistakes they’re memories made,” “it matters how this ends,” “throw your soul through every open door,” etc. — so she could shower her fans with her thoughts and feelings.
And throughout the entire two hour, 15-minute performance, fans were treated not only to note-perfect renditions of songs from throughout her three-album catalog, but with a torrent of opinions, jokes, anecdotes, and pauses for selfies from the endlessly charismatic and authentic British star.
Last night and tonight’s pair of shows at the Xcel serve as the kick-off for Adele’s North American tour, but as she noted early on in the set, she’s already performed this particular set of 18 songs over 50 times, including a “career highlight” show at Glastonbury last week. And her presentation had all the marks of a road-tested, heavily polished stage show. She emerged out of the center of a small stage in the middle of the room and sang her now-iconic opening lyric to “Hello” just as a giant pair of her own eyes twitched open on the main stage’s massive screens. She turned around to greet the other half of the room just as she sang the line, “Hello from the other side.” And she glided across the floor of the crowd to finish the song on the main platform as her eyes, teeth, and sparkly dress all twinkled perfectly.
But before she got out the last note of the last line of the song, the real Adele crept in. “Ha!” she guffawed, unable to mask her excitement any longer. The floodgates had opened, and from then on it was one wild ride through her vocal acrobatics and stream-of-conscious thoughts.
To see Adele is to watch the two sides of her persona battle for center stage. There is the flawless, heavily rehearsed, Grammy- and Oscar-winning vocalist who belts her tunes out in a way that looks so effortless that it caused David Bowie producer Tony Visconti to question whether her voice is even real. And there is the sassy, unfiltered, and endlessly chatty version of the singer who replies to such ridiculous assertions with comebacks like “Suck my d–k.”
“Hello St. Paul! I can’t believe how loud you are. You must still be drunk from yesterday,” Adele joked, looking genuinely impressed by the outpouring of support from the sold-out, 18,000-strong crowd. She told us about her experiences here in the Twin Cities, which have so far included attending her first Fourth of July parade and carnival, eating “chicken on a donut” at the Hi-Lo Diner, riding a Ferris wheel at the Mall of America, and listening to the sound of endless baseball games outside her hotel room window. She showed us sweeping panoramic views of our own city as she sang “Hometown Glory.” And she paid tribute to Dylan by including her cover of “Make You Feel My Love” in her set and dedicated it to us here in Minnesota, and began her encore by shining purple lights on the crowd and playing the video for “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” in its entirety.
“I was considering covering a song but then I thought, ‘F*** it, it’s Prince. You can’t do that,'” she explained, going on to express her appreciation for the sexually explicit and ultimately romantic message of “Beautiful Girl.” Enough said.
She also told a brief anecdote about working with Dan Wilson on “Someone Like You,” though she didn’t seem to realize that she was in his home state. She described the song as something that flowed out of her at a time when she was feeling especially miserable and that she brought it to Wilson in L.A. to “help transcribe it onto the piano,” and said that she could feel her life changing as that song made its way from the Brit Awards to mainstream audiences in America.
As the show wore on, her banter made up nearly half of the time on stage, and she took breaks to pose for photos with the crowd and invite an entire family of fans up for hugs and selfies. At times it almost felt like she was doing stand-up, and at others like she was answering an invisible reporter’s deep-diving interview questions. All of which helped to keep her tethered to this earth while her supernatural talent shot her voice up into the rafters.
Adele may be in the top 0.0001% of vocalists on the planet, but her entire performance seemed dedicated to showing us that at her core, she is just like us — a woman who is dedicating her life to being the best mother possible, who has felt the push and pull of disappointment and sacrifice, and who isn’t afraid to drop out of the spotlight when the fame is getting to her head.
“I like to disappear once in a while,” she said. “But I do get a little bored. I missed you. I’ll always come up.”
One and Only
Rumour Has It
Water Under the Bridge
I Miss You
Million Years Ago
Don’t You Remember
Send My Love (To Your New Lover)
Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan cover)
Someone Like You
Set Fire to the Rain
Video of Prince’s “Most Beautiful Girl in the World”
All I Ask
When We Were Young
Rolling in the Deep