I'll admit to being a bit baffled at times by the magnitude of Adele's success.
She deserves every bit of it, of course, and she's obviously an amazing singer. But her voice alone doesn't quite explain the massive level of global adoration she's experienced. This isn't a knock on her skills at all, mind you. But musicianship alone doesn't make anyone a global superstar. Great songs by themselves don't get you on Saturday Night Live. There's always something else that enables artists to connect with countless millions of fans across the world. Last night, Adele's x-factor, if you will, became clear.
She's funny as hell.
No, really. She's hilarious. Adele speaks with a lovely cockney accent that is particularly charming to American ears, and on stage, she talks a mile a minute, telling laugh-out-loud funny stories. She comes off like the friend you hope shows up every time you go out, the one who makes everything more fun when she has a drink or three.
Case in point: Adele's stage set up on this tour for 25 is fairly simple: a triangular stage juts out from the back of the arena, where Adele and her band sit. Several hundred feet through the pit, surrounded by top-dollar-paying fans, is a diamond-shaped platform. It is from this platform that she emerges to begin the concert.
There are two things that are particularly funny about this. First is how she starts her set. "Hello" was the first song, and she literally popped up out of this standalone diamond-shaped island saying, "Hello. How are you?" The fact that the lyrics are somewhat depressing, told from the point of view of a potentially unstable and emotionally unhealthy ex makes this entrance even more amusing.
Then there's the box. In order to get her to the platform, they literally wheel her to starting position in an Adele-sized trunk. What is inside the trunk? Adele and hopefully some pillows? Nevertheless, the fact that this global superstar gets into position by being wheeled in the same container the tour probably uses to haul speaker cables from city to city is, quite frankly, amazing. It's Adele-in-a-box. Eat your heart out, Justin Timberlake.
She even joked about this during the evening, cracking about how she has to keep a straight face when she opens the concert.
"I can't even say 'hello' to my friends anymore," she said.
After this beginning, the concert proceeded with appropriate aplomb. Adele slowly made her way through the crowd to the main stage during the bridge of "Hello," and aerial shots of downtown Phoenix appeared on the screen behind her. The screen dropped, revealing a live band of at least 20 people. After the song ended, Adele mentioned how hot it was in Phoenix and that she was a little nervous after not performing in Phoenix for eight years. She also made some jokes about the faces of Suns royalty plastered on the upper ring of the stadium.
"Is 'Colangelo' a nice guy?" she asked the crowd, referring to former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo. "All I can see when I'm singing is Colangelo."
Adele's sunny personality starkly contrasts the dark content of her songs. She is aware of this, and made it into a bit last night.
"My songs are sad. They are melancholy, and they are depressing," she said, to cheers from the crowd.
"I have two songs that sound upbeat," she said. "Just because they sound upbeat, doesn't mean they are."
And that was her introduction to "Rumor Has It," one of the two aforementioned songs.
She then went into a bit — and it's best to describe between-song banter using comedy terms, since she's that funny and that comfortable on stage — about the Olympics. She much prefers the American coverage to British coverage, she said.
"Next time, I want to be involved," she exclaimed. "And I don't mean singing. I want to run!"
She brought two young fans on stage, who revealed they were engaged to be married, posing with them for the best selfie ever.
She sang more of her hits, and then she started talking about being asked to sing the theme for the James Bond film Skyfall. (We ranked it the sixth-best Bond song ever.)
"I got to read the script, which was really enlightening because I only ever read trashy gossip magazines,," she said. "It was nice to have a little culture for once."
The live string section behind Adele made the song's instrumentals absolutely sing. Adele leaned forward and belted the melody with grace and clarity, making the live performance of the challenging song appear effortless. She cracked the tension as the song ended with, of course, another joke, this time about forgetting to breathe.
She then started an acoustic part of the show, bringing two of her bandmates to the front to perform "Million Years Ago," a sound about missing the optimism and zero-responsibility days of youth.
She then praised two of her vocal heroes, Alison Krauss and Stevie Nicks ("Well done, Phoenix, for raising Stevie Nicks. Oh, I should have learned a Stevie Nicks song! Oh well, next time.") She sang a Bob Dylan song, and then had the audience use their phone flashlights to illuminate the arena, proceeding to sing "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)," from 25.
She closed the set out with "Chasing Pavements," "Someone Like You," and finally "Set Fire to the Rain," which featured actual simulated rain falling down on Adele, which she had cracked throughout the night would make her "face melt off." As an encore, she played "When We Were Young" before closing with "Rolling In The Deep."
Adele's voice was flawless throughout the night, and her stage presence, which never once felt contrived, only made the night more enchanting. Her concert served as a serious statement about her place as one of pop music's great talents while showcasing her natural affability and seemingly instinctual comedic timing. No wonder both her Phoenix shows have been sold out for months.
Last Night: Adele at Talking Stick Resort Arena
The Crowd: Way more women than at the Guns N' Roses concert Monday night.
Random Notebook Dump: "Is her voice pre-recorded? It sounds too good to be true. Am I an Adele truther?"
Random Adele Quote: "The key change is a bit much for my diaphragm, and sometimes I belch."
Random Criticism: Adele spoke so quickly between songs that I couldn't understand everything she said. I wish I could have heard everything she said, because it was too funny.
Personal Bias: As much as I love Adele's voice, I wish she would record a few more adventurous pop songs.