Adele brought her current tour to the Oakland Arena August 2, 2016, just after two sold out nights in San Jose. The concert was fabulous in every way, from the production design, to the sound, the band, and Adele herself, who was in great spirits and exceptional voice.
The concert production (featuring creative direction and stage design by Es Devlin) focused appropriately on Adele and her vocal performance. There were no dancers, no special effects. She arrived on a “b stage” placed near the rear of the floor, starting off with “Hello,” and over the course of the concert did several songs from that position. But most of the time, she stood in front of her band that was arrayed within a diamond-shaped stage behind, at times behind a gauzy curtain that could be opaque or translucent, allowing for some nice multiple-exposure visuals via 12 projectors, and some shadow play when the band was lit from behind the curtain. One thing noticeable was how frequently white spotlights were trained on Adele with a lack of color in the rear and front-stage visuals, except for during the James Bond theme “Skyfall” when she and stage were bathed in red light. In one very impressive moment, Adele returned to the b stage for several tracks, ending with the closer “Set Fire to the Rain” at which point she was surrounded on all four sides by real falling water, giving the illusion of her singing within the rainfall. Then for the encore, graffiti cannons fired away, sending up white strips of paper each adorned with a lyric, or phrase that appeared to be hand-written… my wife and teen girls scooped up tons of it! Lighting designer Patrick Woodroffe and LD Adam Bassett and the stage design team did her proud, achieving the intended focus on her performance with these elegant touches.
As to Adele herself, her voice was in perfect shape. The songs she close spanned her catalog sounding as good as or better than the original studio versions. The set list was well balanced, the only cover being a sweet take on Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love.” Most were played faithfully to the originals, with two tracks done acoustically, “Million Years Ago,” and “Don’t You Remember.” Adele generally stood in place, whether main or b stage, swaying or turning a bit all while projected on front and rear stage screens to get everyone in the audience a great view.
What was unexpected for this uninitiated attendee is just how personable and funny Adele is. She greeted fans warmly, even pulling one couple on stage for selfies. She told stories from different points in her career, often in a self-deprecating way that was very endearing. There was a lot of this between song chatter, but it never wore thin, particularly since so many of her tracks are melancholic, a fact Adele herself pointed out, admitting that a lot of her songs are depressing. Yet there were enough upbeat tracks in the playlist, and between those and the banter, there was a celebratory air in the room.
All in all a wonderful, heart-warming and entertaining evening from this pop megastar, who deserves every accolade.