When you’re the year’s hottest concert ticket and the perceived new voice of a generation, you can arrive on a pedestal—which is sort of what Adele did via hydraulics at the start and end of her first of two shows at TD Garden this week.
The British songstress backed up anticipation for her first Boston concerts in five years—put off by both childbirth and voice surgery—with her full-bodied voice. She capped “Hello” with a roller coaster trill, sang a gospel-tinged “One and Only” with gusto, and soared to the crescendo of the James Bond theme song “Skyfall” with strings and horns from her 21-piece orchestra swelling up behind her.
But the 28-year-old singer in the sparkly dark gown wasn’t one for ostentatious elevation in the presence of her minions. Adele spent a sizable chunk of her two-hour concert chatting up her fans like they were old friend—or a TV talk-show audience. On Wednesday, we found out that she’d been in town for three days, enjoying alcohol and pork on her first night, Boston cream donuts at Blackbird, and wanted to get a Harvard sweatshirt to wear to bed and feed her collegiate dreams. She called out fans celebrating birthdays and anniversaries and brought two young girls and their parents onstage for a chat and photos. And she gladly bent over with her “bum” in the air along the periphery of her satellite stage to accommodate selfies, or—as she said they call them in England—“Adelfies.”
She shared that trademark cackle and marveled at how much she was enjoying her tour after 71 dates—in contrast to reports the next day out of England that Adele was planning to retire from touring for another 10 years to raise her son.
Granted, Adele could have done without her comment that she works out to stay fit for the stage on a night that 66-year-old Bruce Springsteen was breaking the four-hour mark down in Foxboro. Adele’s songs rarely even got upbeat, though the double percussionists in her core band gave a tribal push early on to “Rumour Has It” and “Water Under the Bridge.” Through it all, she balanced heartbreak ballads with a cheeky levity that gave the night a sense of earthy uplift.
“I talk a lot, and if you don’t like it, tough shit,” Adele said. She did occasionally bog down the pacing, but at least it lent an honest variable beyond the music. She spent extra time honoring what would have been Amy Winehouse’s 33rd birthday, noting how Winehouse’s album Frank “changed my life” and “I owe 90 percent of my career to her” in a dedication of Bob Dylan cover “Make You Feel My Love.”
Adele was boosted by her versatile band and classy staging with layered videos on scrims that occasionally covered her huge cube-corner stage, which jutted out to put the singer closer to the audience. She was encircled in an actual curtain of water for “Set Fire to the Rain.” And when cannons blew a blizzard of platitude-etched confetti (including slips of paper that read “All my love – Adele”) for “Rolling in the Deep,” it was a final stroke that showed that this wasn’t just a party for a superstar, but one for everybody lucky enough to be there.