United Center, Chicago
(shows also on July 11 & 13)
(shows also on July 11 & 13)
The most important and obvious ingredient in a great concert is great music.
But it's no coincidence that many of my favorite live acts are those who do quite a bit of talking from the stage (or, in the case of bands, whose lead singers do).
It’s not that I want a concert hall to feel like a lecture hall, but when artists speak openly to the audience—beyond the trite “How you feeling, Chicago?” and requisite “Thank you”—it adds to my emotional connection with them and their music.
Sunday night at the sold-out United Center, Adele sang better than any female performer I've ever heard live in a pop vein.
And that statement may be true even sans the reference to her gender and genre.
But what made the concert truly resplendent, and even transcendent, is that Adele spent more time talking onstage than anyone I've ever seen (save perhaps for the Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan on a night of especially long-winded harangues).
In doing so, the biggest-selling artist of our time--and on her first arena tour, following the phenomena of her 25 album, it feels like Adele is seizing her moment in history--came off as genuine, genial, gracious and all the more likable than I had previously perceived.
After opening the show with "Hello" while rising on a second stage in the middle of the arena floor, Adele soon mentioned how her friends give her crap every time she utters that greeting.
And throughout the night, rather that traipse in generic or banal diva talk, she spoke about:
- Having been in Chicago for a few days and eaten at The Girl & the Goat and Shake Shack, the latter of which she avoids in her hometown of London because the lines are too long.
- That before slowing down upon becoming a mother, she could drink anyone under the table. And intends to again. (She challenged the entire crowd.)
- Her desire to stop picking her nose, learn how to cook and be able to do the splits.
- That she came to love the music of Alison Krauss through the Raising Sand album with Robert Plant, and wanted to perform a few songs in a similar style (notably "Million Years Ago).
- In doing so while seated, she noted that "My bum is too big for the stool" and was afraid of tipping over and having video of it go viral.
She also spoke candidly about her relationships, past and present, and the wonders and challenges of being a mother, sharing how emotionally difficult it was for her to diminish her time with her child and devote so much time to making music again (after the long gap that followed 21, in part because of her pregnancy and motherhood).
In everything she said, she came off as appreciative--about the hearty applause and her huge success in general--and self-effacing, having noted up front that "My music isn't that fun; it's all about me."
But when she did, it was sublime, with every song coming across marvelously. (See the setlist here.)
Highlights for me, just to name a few, included "Rumour Has It," "Skyfall," "Send My Love (to Your New Lover)" "Chasing Pavements," the massive crowd sing-along on "Someone Like You" and the ebullient closer, "Rolling in the Deep," complete with confetti.
Adele was onstage for more than 2-1/2 hours, and though probably 25% of that was spent talking, it added exponentially to my enjoyment of the concert and my appreciation of the artist.
I was sitting in the third level of the United Center, somewhat behind the stage, so I couldn't much see Adele's band thanks to an unnecessary curtain on the side--or even her straight-on most of the night--but the power of her voice, whether singing or simply speaking, was rather incredible to behold, and continues to resonate days later.