Adele gave the performance of a decade at her Sydney show

Stadium concerts are, quite literally, tough gigs.

First off, there are the logistical nightmares of trying to move and place 95,000 people within a single space, and making sure that they can hear and see something other than just a screaming echo. Hell, it was a nightmare just trying to get people there, with train delays and track work causing havoc all over the city – Adele delayed her starting time by 45 minutes to allow more people to get in.

Above this, there’s the precarious balance of scale and intimacy. How can you make it feel intimate, when you can’t even see where the rows and rows of people end? Do you have to sacrifice this crucial part of performance because of your superstardom?

In short, no. Within a minute of the appropriate opener ‘Hello’, we are no longer in ANZ Stadium – we are in Adele’s lounge room. Even when the sound is so colossal and her voice so clear and piercing it could blow the roof off, it feels as if the arena is shrinking with every word. Suddenly it’s just you and Adele, having a laugh and having a sing.

“You just know that Adele is the same person in front of 95,000 people as she is having a beer at the pub.”

The fact that Adele is so relentlessly normal makes her an anomaly in pop – especially at this level of stardom. There’s no dramatic staging tonight, no dance routines, no costume changes, nothing to distract from her songs and her voice.

When she cracks jokes with people in the audience, takes a plastic crown from a punter and wears it for a song, and when she has to stop herself from talking so much, it shrinks the stadium further. Where every other pop star would try and project themselves outwards, Adele wants you to lean in.

There’s also the quiet touches, like how she peppered the entire stadium with scraps of paper with lyrics scribbled on them, or how she left a photo and a personal note under a chair high up in the nosebleed section for someone to find. Or when she stops the show before ‘Set Fire To The Rain’, quite visibly upset, to check on an audience member that had become sick in the crowd. You just know that Adele is the same person in front of 95,000 people as she is having a beer at the pub.

With three globe-conquering albums now under her belt, her setlist doesn’t have any room for a weak moment. She goes big early, with the three-pronged attack of ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, ‘Rumour Has It’, and the galloping ‘Water Under The Bridge’. Her voice, which she seems to throw out and control with languid flicks of her hand, doesn’t appear to even know what a wrong note is – let alone drop one the entire night.

21 cuts ‘Take It All’ and ‘Don’t You Remember’ (which Adele introduces by saying “at the end there’s a key change and sometimes I burp”) are standouts, as is her Bob Dylan cover ‘Make You Feel My Love’. ‘Chasing Pavements’, written a lifetime ago for 19, feels just as raw and heartbreaking as it no doubt felt was when it was written. The end is reserved, of course, for ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and ‘Someone Like You’ – a song that even after the thousands of times you have heard it, can still illicit tears.

A decade was a long time to wait, but it would be hard to find anyone in that stadium that didn’t think it was worth it.

Adele tour dates

March 13 – Adelaide Oval, Adelaide SA 
March 18, March 19 – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne VIC
Limited tickets available 

Jules LeFevre is a writer for FasterLouder and inthemix. She tweets at @jules_lefevre

Header photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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