Adele – Madison Square Garden (New York, NY), 9.22.16

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Before a concert, most artists are either backstage conserving their energy, doing vocal exercises to get warmed up for their performance, or getting the finishing touches done to their hair/makeup before they step out on stage for their big entrance.

Adele, on the other hand, is out in the audience taking selfies with as many fans as possible.

We had gotten to MSG on the early side both because of my Type-A tendencies but because we weren’t sure if security would be beefed up after the recent explosion that happened in the city. So we were sitting in our lower level seats, passing the time, when we noticed that on the floor people kept getting their picture taken with this person in a blue sparkly dress. I initially assumed that this was either an Adele-lookalike or a drag queen, since a) the audience members were not freaking out and were lining up for photos in an orderly fashion, b) the person looked too tall to be Adele, and c) WHO THE HELL DOES THAT?!?! Just from a security standpoint alone, this is a nightmare, and in all the concerts that I’ve gone to I’ve never seen the headliner just milling around chatting up the fans before going on stage. I just couldn’t comprehend how this could actually be Adele; I laughed a little at the rubes who were getting their pictures taken with an imposter. Whoever the person was seemed to be having a grand old time, though, as they patiently took as many selfies as possible.

And then MSG put the spotlight on her and I realized that it was actually her. Adele, milling around with us commoners, like it was no big deal. Well, commoners might be an overstatement as those floor tickets were not cheap, but it was still a generous act on her part. As we watched her run around trying to see as many fans as possible, I joked that maybe this wasn’t even going to be a concert, but instead would be a marathon selfie session. It really set the tone for the evening – Adele was there to share her beautiful voice with us, but she wanted to interact with us as well. This was going to be a different night than your usual run of the mill concert. When the lights dimmed, the energy in the room became electric; even though we had just seen her, everyone was still really excited because we were finally going to hear that amazing voice live.

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Adele kicked things off on the small stage in the middle of the crowd, which was actually very close to our seat location. As she started singing the first few notes of “Hello” I actually got chills. As powerful and beautiful as her voice is on the radio, it is just as strong in person. Her vocals consumed the entire arena and I’m not ashamed to say that I actually teared up a little, slightly overwhelmed by being able to experience this live and in person. It was majestic and intoxicating and emotional all at the same time. As good as you imagine seeing Adele live would be, multiply that by two and you’re in the ballpark of what it actually was.

Adele, however, wasn’t just there to sing. She’s a talker and she is just as delightful as you would assume. In a lot of ways, Adele is kind of an open book, though she does hold some things back (she is famously very secretive about her son). Her albums are very personal and she was more than happy to share some of herself with the crowd as well. In between songs, she’d tell stories and jokes and would often get distracted and go off on a tangent about something else altogether before returning to her original point. Adele was mid-story when she spotted a little girl in the first few rows and stopped to being the girl on stage and take some photos. She had the audience sing “Happy Birthday” to selected people in the crowd (sadly not me, though I could pretend). It was all very charming and you get the distinct feeling that Adele is not only a tremendously talented person, but a nice person to boot. You could go grab a beer with her and have the time of your life. Some people may have been annoyed with how much she chatted, but to me that’s one of the perks of going to see a performer live. You get an experience beyond just listening to their albums; a lot of times, she gave context for the song that she was about to sing or how it came about.

She joked that she was getting some of her more upbeat sounding songs out of the way early, so if you wanted to dance that was really your only time to do so. Of course, she pointed out, even those songs weren’t really all that happy. Adele indicated that while she will always play her hits as long as fans want to hear them, there is some mixed emotions about going out every night and singing songs about your ex-boyfriend, especially now that she’s in another relationship. She also clarified that despite all reports to the contrary, she really “doesn’t give a f*ck” that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie broke up. She was joking when she dedicated her concert to them on Tuesday, yet every news outlet in the world picked it up and made it into a story. I was particularly interested in her telling the story about how she came to sing the theme song for the James Bond movie Skyfall; she actually turned them down the first time that they asked.

Of course, she also sang and it was glorious every.single.time. if there was any doubt of her raw talent, she performed a mini-acoustic set in the middle of the show. There isn’t a lot of room for error when singing acoustic since there isn’t any way to hide flaws or mistakes, but it was uniformly flawless. Actually pretty much everything about the entire show was perfection and I feel unimaginably lucky that I was able to see her live. When she closed the main set with “Set Fire to the Rain,” it actually rained inside Madison Square Garden. Even Kanye didn’t make that happen. When she finished her finale, confetti rained from the sky. But even that was special – the confetti all had song lyrics on them. They looked handwritten, though I assume they are printed – though I guess with Adele you never know.

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Seeing Adele perform was one of the few times when a singer not only met every expectation that you have for them, but completely exceeded them (both personally and professionally). While her voice made the room feel big, her stage patter made the room feel smaller and more intimate. It was a nice balance and if she indeed it taking off the next ten years from touring, she is making the most of her current time on the road. Adele was the last person that I was dying to see live, but hadn’t allowed myself to even dream about it as I wasn’t sure that the opportunity would ever present itself. I’m so happy that not only did I get that chance, but it was everything that I could have hoped for and more. Adele was definitely one of my top five concert experiences of all time; I don’t have enough adjectives to even describe the experience.

Setlist:

  • Hello
  • Hometown Glory
  • One and Only
  • Rumour Has It
  • Water Under the Bridge
  • I Miss You
  • Skyfall
  • Million Years Ago (acoustic)
  • Don’t You Remember (acoustic)
  • Make You Feel My Love (Bob Dylan cover)
  • Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
  • Sweetest Devotion
  • Chasing Pavements
  • Someone Like You
  • Set Fire to the Rain
  • When We Were Young (encore)
  • Rolling in the Deep (encore)
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