Adele @ Domain Stadium
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Adele’s first ever Australian show was an exercise in excess. But it was also remarkable for how much intimacy, humour and emotion the world’s pre-eminent diva packed into two spectacular hours in Perth on Tuesday.
In what is being called Perth’s biggest ever concert, the 65,000-strong crowd braved hectic transport and traffic conditions (particularly on the way out) to be part of the occasion.
And what an occasion it was. Adele is debuting a bespoke, 360 degree “in the round” staging set in Australia, and Perth was first to see it. The show began with Adele’s eyes opening on the giant wrap-around screen and it rose up to reveal the singer, resplendent in a sparkling dress, appropriately greeting the crowd with her Grammy Award-winning smash Hello.
As she made her way down stairs to a runway around the stage, she was visibly taken aback by the vastness of the crowd in the most remote city on Earth. It was hard not to be moved as her eyes welled up and she waved to the audience.
So far so good, and when second song Hometown Glory revealed pictures of iconic Perth beaches and the city skyline, she went a long way to winning the crowd over.
But what really drew the audience in was her potty-mouthed banter and that distinctly cockney accent. Her rambling and occasionally hilarious speeches, combined with clearly visible tattoos, stripped back the glamour to reveal something of a chavette underneath – an everywoman that everyone could relate to.
And so it was that Adele continued to endear herself to the crowd by shooting a t-shirt gun into four remote corners of Domain Stadium, singing an impromptu happy birthday to one lucky fan, entertaining with a kiss-cam during the encore break (was that Peter Sumich on the big screen?) and blasting confetti personalised with her own song lyrics as souvenirs.
Best of all was when she invited a performer from the recent Fringe Festival, Adele impersonator Feminem, to the stage to sing a little of 2011 hit Rumour Has It. The touching moment also featured a shout out to Perth nightclub Connections.
It made up for the fact that in the round concerts are notoriously hit and miss affairs. While U2 wowed with their 360 show in 2010, Justin Timberlake’s attempt a decade ago had shown the pitfalls of the exercise – that for at least half the show you can’t see the artist.
This wasn’t improved by the fact that her band was hidden under the stage. Apparently there were nine of them, including backing vocalists, but their role was reduced to that of a backing track, which they might as well have been for all the attention they received.
Some vision of what were no doubt virtuoso players up on the screens, as Adele sang to the other side of the stadium, would have created nice variation – really the only exception was during Bond theme song Skyfall when a male choir surrounded the stage.
But this was the Adele show; that was who fans had come to see, and there was no support act. And we found out plenty about her – that she says “no” to everything, that she loves her food like everyone else, that she doesn’t drink while she’s working, and that she perhaps feels a little unworthy and shy about all the attention she receives.
One senses that she is only now touring Australia for the first time because in fact she doesn’t enjoy being on the road, and with a young family who could blame her.
But it is a shame that we are unlikely to ever see her perform in more “intimate” environments such as Perth Arena where the full power of her voice might be allowed to shine through. At times Tuesday night felt more about spectacle than the music – perhaps her songs are hit and miss but more likely this was because of a lack of emphasis on that part of the show.
“Who knows if I’ll do it again but I’m loving it and you look fucking beautiful,” she said at one point.
She saved her best for last as Set Fire to the Rain shot smoke jets around the stadium, and became the anthem the show needed to close the main set.
Then for the encore the crowd rose as one for the hits that started it all. Rolling in the Deep was the expected closer coming in, but in a new setlist designed especially for this tour, Adele moved it to second last and that proved the masterstroke.
With the crowd in the palm of her hand following Rolling in the Deep’s strut, she announced, “This song changed my life,” before knocking it out of the park with Someone Like You.
And that was just it. If the show at times felt more sporting spectacle than rock and roll concert, this was the premiership moment, where all the hard work paid off. Her exit alone, eyes again welling with emotion, was enough to bring a tear to the hardest heart as the emotion boiled over and left us with one overwhelming feeling: if Adele can do it, so can I.
Pic by Paul Kane/Getty Images