Let’s be honest, Adele‘s music is not intended for stadiums. While her music sounds spectacular with 60,000 people singing back to her, her catalogue is made up of heartbroken ballads, which hardly boast the anthemic qualities of a Beyoncé epic or a Guns N’ Roses howler. Before Glastonbury last year, you could’ve questioned her ability to connect to thousands like she was in theatres. Even Adele had her doubts. In 2011 she told The Guardian, “The thought of an audience that big frightens the life out of me. I don’t think the music would work either.”
But the British singer, who is arguably now the biggest in the world, has no choice. Her debut Australian tour announce drew more attention than any other tour in recent memory and had she stuck only to theatres, she would’ve spent three years here.
Thankfully, Adele was wrong.
Her music may not typically be suited to stadiums but her personality is larger than life and made 60,000 people sitting in Brisbane’s Gabba, one of her largest shows ever, feel like they were sitting next to her. Maybe it’s the accent or the off-script banter or maybe it’s her powerful voice that could travel through an entire State, but the warmth of Adele’s show was felt even five rows from the back.
Entering the stadium, it immediately felt more intimate than you’d think. The 360 degree stage by genius stage designer Es Devlin catered for everyone in every seat. Adele’s closed eyes loomed on a screen, only to open once she’d sung her first words, “Hello, it’s me.” From those first words, any qualms about how she would translate were gone. Everything from the visuals to the vocals brought Adele to you, no matter where you were sitting. Heck, even the people in apartments behind the Gabba were treated to a show as if they were in the front row.
She went three songs without talking moving from the spectacular Hello to Hometown Glory to One And Only. During Hometown Glory, moving pictures of Brisbane flashed up on the screen and it was little touches like this throughout the whole night that made the experience heartwarming and familiar. An Adele show is as much about the banter as the songs and as soon as she opened her mouth, the laughter was louder than the cheers.
She told the Mayor to “shut up” over concerns about the show, admitted she tripped up the stairs during Hello and said “fuck” about five times during the first minute. She wandered down among the crowd and each time spoke as if she was conversing with a group of five. She exclaimed she was nervous and while this is something that most stars lie about to be endearing, you get the feeling Adele was being genuine given her fear of huge crowds. It only made people love her more. She even embraced the mass of people as she asked everyone to stick their smartphones up creating a twinkling sea of light.
As she’s never been to Australia before, she treated us to a Greatest Hits set. There wasn’t a focus on her latest album 25, instead choosing to cover her whole career. Rumour Has It thundered through the stadium with pounding bass, her vocals ricocheted off the walls during Don’t You Remember and Chasing Pavements explored the breathtaking depths of her smokey vocals. Other songs were beefed up for the stadium experience. Skyfall saw the introduction of a male choir to compete with the rousing cinematics and Set Fire To The Rain unleashed a tonne of fireworks, only further raising the goosebumps amongst the crowd.
Interestingly, the quieter moments translated brilliantly. She preceded her cover of Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love with a heartfelt speech about missing her husband and 25 closer Sweetest Devotion, dedicated to her son, felt genuinely emotional for her. With the band under the stage, in those fragile moments, Adele was up there alone, sparkling in a silk dress and managing to tap into her most intimate emotions despite 60,000 onlookers. Even as the rain poured briefly, she stood out there, found the humour in it and kept going. She boosted each song’s impact with stories attached to each from her creepy love of Alison Krauss to how she probably hates, “one million fucking people.”
As good as the main part of the set was, the encore was always going to be the clincher and she delivered. Beginning with 25 highlight When We Were Young, she flashed up photos from her childhood on the screen before treating us to one of the best key changes in her whole discography. She then rolled straight into Rolling In The Deep, boosted by a soulful prelude that had the entire crowd singing, “You’re gonna wish you, never had met me.” As she reached the giddy heights of the chorus she sung, “You could’ve had this all,” twirling her hands around the point to the whole stadium. This is what makes Adele so brilliant. She pairs heartbreak with a healthy measure of sass and there are lines you could almost hear her chucking through.
As we ended the night she took us all back to the moment that it all really took off for her, performing Someone Like You at the Brits. The performance was one of the greatest award show performances in recent memory and the next day, “my life changed forever,” as she said. Six years later, that song is a timeless classic. Every single person in that crowd sung along and Adele couldn’t hold back smiling. Being involved in the Someone Like You is a bucket list moment and it was profound watching it unfold.
Adele’s music isn’t boundary-pushing or something wildly different but its universal. Everyone from 5 to 75 year-olds sung along and there’s something really special about watching music that connects on so many levels. She’s a bonafide star, not because she’s fancy, different or diva-ish but because she’s managed to hold on to her rough-around-the-edges charm despite the adoration of millions. Every one there was just one of 60,000 but it never felt like it. She made a stadium feel like a theatre and that’s no easy task. She sent people home with confetti that had her handwriting on it and while that was the physical keepsake, she’d also left everyone with a little bit of her heart.