Review: There was much to adore about Adele in St. Paul

Ross Raihala St. Paul Pioneer Press ST. PAUL -- A storm rolled through downtown St. Paul on Tuesday night, and I'm not talking about the one that knocked down trees and power lines. British pop superstar Adele opened the North American leg of her...

Singer Adele performs on The Pyramid stage at Worthy Farm in Somerset during the Glastonbury Festival, Britain, June 25, 2016. Adele performed Tuesday night in St. Paul. (REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov)

Ross Raihala

St. Paul Pioneer Press


ST. PAUL - A storm rolled through downtown St. Paul on Tuesday night, and I’m not talking about the one that knocked down trees and power lines. British pop superstar Adele opened the North American leg of her first tour in five years at Xcel Energy Center with a performance full of thunder and, at one point, rain. But the sold-out crowd of about 15,000 only got wet around the eyes.

Not to say it was a somber affair. The 28-year-old London native acknowledged early on that “I write very sad songs,” but went out of her way to make the two-plus hour concert joyous, memorable and personal. She sang the same 18-song set she toured through nearly 50 European dates earlier this spring, but there was never a moment that felt stale. As crazy as this may sound, many of the fans likely left feeling as if they knew Adele on a deeper, more intimate level - in a hockey arena, no less.


Adele’s last two albums shattered sales records around the globe, but her current tour is her first major trek through U.S. arenas. It should have happened in 2011, but ongoing problems with her voice wreaked havoc on that outing. After cutting it short, she disappeared from the spotlight to undergo surgery on her vocal cords and have a baby with her boyfriend, Simon Konecki. (During the show, she told the crowd they hadn’t gotten married yet, despite tabloid reports: “I would tell you if I did!”) Adele recounted that year Tuesday night, noting that her concert was moved from First Avenue to the X, but that she only allowed it to be a half-house show, as she was “too scared” to play for the full arena.

Adele has spoken frankly about her stage fright over the years, but there wasn’t a hint of it Tuesday night. She sang every number flawlessly, rarely showing a whiff of effort or strain in the process. She also spoke to the crowd extensively, telling charming stories about what the songs meant to her, chatting about her time in the Twin Cities (she ate at Minneapolis’ Hi-Lo Diner and visited the Mall of America: “I’ve never seen anything like it!”) and took selfies with deliriously happy fans, including an entire family from Fargo, N.D., she invited on stage early in the evening.

The concert began with filmed footage showing a close-up of her eyes. At 8:15 p.m., her voice boomed “Hello” over the speakers, the eyes on the screen opened and Adele appeared on a satellite stage in the middle of the arena floor. She wore a dark, sparkling Burberry gown that was both glamorous and timeless. (She reportedly had 10 copies of it specially fitted for her and that’s all she’s wearing for her entire tour.)

Near the end of “Hello,” security escorted her back to the main stage, which featured a small, empty space in front for Adele and a larger, triangle-shaped area behind her that held her backing band, which included a dozen string and horn players.

From there, she played the first song she ever wrote, “Hometown Glory,” and showed footage of St. Paul’s skyline on the screens behind her. She found time for numbers from each of her three albums, but concentrated most on last year’s “25.” The crowd knew every one of them and eagerly and loudly sang along the few times Adele asked them to.

Adele performed both “Don’t You Remember” and “Someone Like You,” the two tunes she co-wrote with Minnesota native Dan Wilson. While she mentioned Wilson by name, she apparently didn’t realize he was from here. She was sure, however, to acknowledge Bob Dylan’s heritage prior to her cover of his 1997 track “Make You Feel My Love.” She said it “broke my heart and fixed it at the same time” and that it was “such a joy” to sing it, because it takes on new meaning for her each time. “When I sing my own songs,” she said, “I just get depressed.”

She closed the main set with “Set Fire to the Rain” from the satellite stage, complete with an artificial downpour around her. The big screens then aired the video for Prince’s 1994 single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” She told the audience she considered covering one of the Purple One’s songs herself, but then thought “F-- it. It’s Prince. You can’t do that.”

The three-song encore - “All I Ask,” “When We Were Young” and “Rolling in the Deep” - proved to be the perfect end to a memorable evening. But beyond her songs, and her voice, Adele’s warm, infectious personality is what’s likely to stick with the crowd the most. She talked about wanting to try Burger King’s new Mac n’ Cheetos cheese sticks one moment and how much having a baby changed her life the next.


Adele returns to Xcel on Wednesday night for a second, sold-out show. Given her triumphant performance, she could sell the place out for the next week.

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