Adele is redefining the “diva” ideal one potty-mouthed, self-deprecating joke at a time.
Of course, there were moments of sheer elegance Monday night at Madison Square Garden for the first of her six-show run there over the next week. The way Adele, dressed in a floor-length black gown with red accents, delivered the sleek “Skyfall” in a pristine voice could rival any number of one-named divas on their best days.
But Adele doesn’t seek the adoration or the emotional distance that are conferred with well-earned titles like Queen of Soul or, you know, Babs. She craves connection. She strives for realness. She seeks to erase the distance between herself and her fans.
It’s why she brings 4-year-old Quinn from the audience onstage for hugs and a picture. It’s why she randomly throws out the names of American cities and asks if anyone in the crowd is from there. And it’s why she jokes about the source material of her music.
“Are you here to have fun with me?” she asks the crowd before “Rumour Has It,” one of her two faster songs. “Well you’ve come to the wrong place then . . . After these, we can stop beating around the bush and get miserable and cry together.”
When Adele shifts into fangirl mode for Tina Fey or Alison Krauss, it becomes one of the many ways she shows her fans that she is not that different from them. She talks of visiting the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and going to see “Hamilton” and getting jolted awake Monday morning by the text message describing the suspect in the Chelsea bombing Saturday night.
“By the way, I talk a lot,” she said, going off on one of the night’s many tangents. “If you don’t like it, I’m sorry, but you can leave because it’s my show.”
Though her career is marked by the multiplatinum melancholy in her albums “21” and “25,” Adele’s show is actually a joyous affair because its foundation is her personality, not her songs.
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The breakup that shaped “21” is behind the 28-year-old singer now, as she happily raises her son, Angelo, with partner Simon Konecki.
Of course, that doesn’t mean she’s left melancholy behind. The lovely “Million Years Ago” captures the bittersweet feelings that come with reminiscing, feelings that were even more magnified by the spare, guitars-only arrangement.
However, there is something about the shared experience of a concert that makes it all seem less dire, and more cathartic, especially when it’s the wrenching “Someone Like You.”
“Let’s be 15,000 desperadoes and sing our hearts out together,” she said, letting the crowd take the lead on her signature hit.
What could be less diva-like than that?
Hello / Hometown Glory / One and Only / Rumour Has It / Water Under the Bridge / I Miss You / Skyfall / Million Years Ago / Don’t You Remember / Make You Feel My Love / Send My Love (to Your New Lover) / Sweetest Devotion / Chasing Pavements / Someone Like You / Set Fire to the Rain // ENCORE: When We Were Young / Rolling in the Deep