Two eyes, enormous and tightly shut, greeted the Adele fans filing into the soldout Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, for the opening night of the British superstar’s long-awaited U.S. tour. Those darkly shadowed lids were immediately identifiable as Adele’s, of course, and flashed from a pair of immense screens that met at a point centerstage. As the introductory piano chords of “Hello” rang through the arena, the eyes opened.
Adele emerged in person, no less dramatically, on a smaller, square stage at the middle of the venue, wearing a Christopher Bailey-designed Burberry gown made of black silk and spangled with floral sequins. As they would throughout the night, her fluid gesticulations accentuated her robust voice. Midsong, she strolled through the audience to the front stage, where the crowd sang her hit’s coda back to her.
After a sip from a mug (just warm honey, she’d later reveal), Adele went right into “Hometown Glory,” from her debut album, 19, shots of the St. Paul skyline appearing onscreen behind her.
During the bluesy “One and Only,” the screens went transparent to finally reveal her musicians: a sixpiece band, an eightpiece string section, four horns, and three backup singers.
Then Adele starting talking. And Adele can talk.
Before she was ready to belt out the sassy “Rumour Has It,” Adele had told the audience about her first Fourth of July in the U.S. (she saw a parade in suburban Minnesota) and a local delicacy she’d sampled at a Minneapolis diner (chicken on a donut). She’d also joking asked: “Did anyone come who didn’t want to come? It’s usually a husband or a dad,” and accidentally voiced the first of the evening’s surprisingly few “f-words”. (They often pepper her speech despite her attempts at self-censorship. Her response to the foulmouthed slip? “Oh, s***!”)
Then Adele announced, “We’re going to have a good time,” before adding, with the fastpaced, goodhumored selfdeprecation that would characterize her banter throughout the evening, “but it’s not going to be a party – because I sing very sad songs.”
Next up was “Water Under the Bridge,” drawn, like nearly half of Adele’s 18-song set, from her latest blockbuster, 25, which first topped the charts more than seven months ago. But first, Adele had recounted a trip to the Mall of America (she was not expecting an indoor Ferris wheel), confessed her inability to dance and propensity to sweat, and invited an entire family – mom, dad, four children – onstage to take a selfie.
Adele introduced her James Bond theme, “Skyfall,” by casting shade at (but not naming) the less stellar songs written for the franchise – “I’m not being judgmental. I’m just being a bitch.” – and sang the swelling anthem draped in a Tottenham flag that a fan had tossed onstage while a simulated storm cloud loomed in three-dimensions behind her.
Adele then played a short acoustic section which, she explained, “gives us permission to sit down.”
Just two guitarists backed her on the nostalgic “Million Years Ago,” then her bassist and drummers joined them for “Don’t You Remember,” which had a slight Americana feel that Adele said was a tribute to the “so divine and so sublime” bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.
Before moving on to her current single, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” Adele asked, “Do any of you have someone in your life that you wish wasn’t?” Stripped down to just acoustic guitar and upright bass, this performance was the most drastic reworking of the night.
Rejoined by the full band, Adele introduced Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love” with another nod to the local crowd, saying “since we are in Minnesota, we must pay homage,” but after the opening piano chords, shouted “Oh, s***, stop, stop, stop.” She’d forgotten to say that this was when the audience was supposed to light up their phones. They did, and the song recommenced.
Adele returned to the smaller, midarena stage to sing her breakthrough hit, “Chasing Pavements.” Then she moved obligingly around the perimeter, bent at the waist, posing for multiple selfies,lamenting “I always make this face – it’s so annoying.”
As multiple ghostly images of Adele overlapped on a fourwalled semi-transparent screen above her, the singer performed the heartbroken “Someone Like You” as a fullarena singalong. (Of course the audience, much of it happily winetipsy, had been singing along full-throatedly, with or without the star’s encouragement, for most of the night.) Adele’s set closed with the dramatic “Set Fire to the Rain,” and water dropped from above all around her, encasing her in a cage of liquid.
After Adele disappeared into the stage, the main video screen displayed the video for Prince’s 1994 hit “The Most Beautiful Girl In the World” in full. When she returned, he admitted that she didn’t feel worthy to offer a full tribute to the late genius herself – “I did maybe consider covering a song, but f*** it, it’s Prince.”
After a fullvoiced “All I Ask,” backed only by piano, Adele told a heartfelt story about the difficulty of reconciling motherhood and a career by way of introducing the huge ballad “When We Were Young,” which was set to a slideshow of childhood photos. The show closed with a climactic and rousing “Rolling in the Deep” as confetti cannons fired into the air. Closer inspection revealed that each of the rectangular scraps was inscribed with an Adele lyric, made to appear handwritten.
Adele Ljve 2016 setlist at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota (July 5):
One and Only
Rumour Has It
Water Under the Bridge
I Miss You
Million Years Ago
Don’t You Remember
Send My Love (to Your New Lover)
Make You Feel My Love
Someone Like You
Set Fire to the Rain
All I Ask
When We Were Young
Rolling in the Deep