Adele Is The Best Artist You've Never Seen Live

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"Hello, it's me."

With those three words, Adele came back into our lives last month — and last night, those same words reintroduced her to the nearly 6,000 fans at her one-night-only event at Radio City Music Hall. It's safe to say that almost everyone in attendance — most of whom won tickets to see the concert, which will air December 14 on NBC — have never seen Adele live, myself included. Only because she's rarely played the States due to tour cancellations, for reasons that ranged from wanting to spend more time with her then boyfriend (a decision she now admits she regrets) to vocal issues that later led to surgery. And as of right now, this show is her only tour date.

Adele is an anomaly in the music industry. While everyone else is complaining that poor album sales have forced them to tour harder and longer, Adele has made all of her money from those sales — millions and millions of them. Billboard has already reported that she's set to move over a million copies of her new album, 25 (out November 20), and could even sell closer to two million. If Adele even comes close to hitting that major milestone, she'll earn herself the highest-selling debut week for a female musician since 1991, the year in which Nielsen Soundscan first started keeping track of album sales. Britney Spears is the current record-holder with her album Oops!... I Did It Again selling 1.32 million in May 2000, according to Billboard.
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But while everyone and their mother (and probably their grandmother) has a copy of her last album, 2011's 21, they've never had the chance to cry alongside a complete stranger as Adele belts out "Someone Like You" and then asks you to sing along. She actually did this at the show, looking a little stunned by the magnitude of it all. It's a shame, really, that she hasn't yet announced a full-fledged tour (and, as she remarked to Rolling Stone, may never do so), because as I learned, seeing her perform live recaptures the magic of that album.

Adele's voice rings clear and pure without any help from a studio. There were flubbed lyrics on the new song "Water Under the Bridge" and missed notes, which she chalked up to those nerves that have always kept her from touring. But in the end, they were all beautiful flaws that highlighted the feelings that went into writing this kind of personal, emotional music. And they served to remind the audience that this was in fact a live show.

In her recent Rolling Stone cover story, Adele admitted that her voice sounds a bit different after surgery — in a good way, since she can now hit even lower and higher notes. The broadening of her range makes familiar songs seem new. Though she mostly stuck to the original arrangements, she brought a certain life to the songs that isn't on the album — that couldn't have been captured there. The singer took liberties that demonstrated her ability to make a song sound like it's always been there for you, helping you through whatever it may be that's troubling you.

While Adele's changed a lot since 21 — something she also talked about onstage and in new songs like "When We Were Young," which gets at what it's like to grow up — her show somehow felt intimate. Just you and Adele. It's the power of her open-book songwriting that these personal songs can be so big and yet so small at the same time. It also helps that her stage setup is nothing more than her, a band, and some movable light-up stages, which are beautiful but not over the top.

When you go to see Taylor Swift or Beyoncé in concert, a lot of focus is placed on production. Their shows are spectacles with numerous costume changes and stage setups that force the tour to be a well-oiled machine. Miss a stage cue and everything's off, forcing each night to feel very similar to the last. Adele's show was more off the cuff, allowing the megastar to interact with the crowd and show off her personality — specifically, her humor, which is bawdy and full of F-bombs. It sort of erased this idea of her being otherworldly; she's still just a girl from London, after all, who doesn't mind doing her own laundry to keep her ego in check.

That ego never surfaced at the show. Instead, Adele spent time thanking everyone who waited hours on line to get in. She sang "Happy Birthday" to a fan she had met at a listening party days before. She cried over being in front of such a supportive crowd and probably caused others to tear up, too. She joked that there were probably many men who were dragged to this show by their wives or husbands, but that her music is "baby-making music," so they were probably going to get lucky when all was said and done. She's held a lot of babies who resulted from 21, that's all she's saying.

Onstage, as in her interviews, Adele does not hold back. She narrated every moment of the show, giving her own comments as she adjusted her mic or took off her shoes because she just can't sing in heels. Perhaps she did this to keep her nerves in check, or maybe she was just trying to replicate the closeness that her fans feel with her. She picked up a guitar and made small talk while it was lifted over her head, joking that her hairstylist would be mad if one hair went out of place. She admitted that she rarely plays guitar, because she likes her acrylic nails too much to part with them on a regular basis. Though, she did so last night to perform the 19 track "Daydreamer."

Adele's not just a storyteller in her music. Onstage, she shared the tales of her songs: why she wrote them, who they're about, where she penned them (notably mentioning a big brass bed, which she has since sold to a thrift shop), and how they've changed in the years since she recorded them. It was an intimate night with music's biggest star in an iconic music hall that fits thousands of people. She should've felt too far away, but she brought the audience into her world to experience her music alongside her. She wasn't just performing for us, she was performing for herself — to prove she can do it, and to finally understand the connection she has with people. She seemed to be getting at something tactile that can't be felt by reading off the number of records sold.

That kind of connection can't be replicated, not even on television, which is where Adele's done the bulk of her live performing. On TV, things have been edited, delayed, and cut for time. To really see Adele, you need to see her live in all her glory. Let's hope she decides to give the world that opportunity.
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