She had us at hello.
“Hello” was the first word Adele sang Tuesday night at sold-out Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
She delivered it as an alluring cocktail of apprehension, melancholy, apology and hope.
The booming rendering of that one word — from her hit “Hello” — sums up the way Adele has gripped pop music lovers for the past five years with a big, luxurious but not over-the-top voice that mixes vulnerability with resilience, that comforts us during heartbreak and encourages us to press on.
Adele could have had us all with just that wondrous voice. But what elevates Adele above the Beyoncés, Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys is her personality. She yaks and yaks like your tell-all BFF who just returned from a long vacation. She’s spontaneous, confessional, witty, potty-mouthed, self-deprecating and adorably charming.
More than any other major pop star, Adele, 28, keeps it real. There’s nothing false about her in concert except for her fingernails and eyelashes. If her songs reveal a love life of misery, her conversation celebrates a life full of mirth.
On Tuesday, Adele chronicled all her adventures thus far in the Twin Cities, where she is opening her North American tour for two nights. There was her first-ever Fourth of July parade, a trip to Mall of America and a Ferris wheel ride, a chicken-and-doughnut at the Hi-Lo Diner, a meal at the 112 Eatery, nonstop baseball games across from her hotel. “Any recommendations for tomorrow?” she asked.
Approachable doesn’t begin to describe her relationship with her fans. She gets downright cozy. One woman who claimed to be from Adele’s hometown of Tottenham, England, handed the singer a Tottenham Spurs scarf. Adele called two brothers and a sister onstage because she liked how they danced. They in turn asked if their parents and little brother could join them — all for selfies with the star.
Adele got the entire arena to sing “Happy Birthday” to an audience member named Daniel, and she spent five minutes strolling around a satellite stage posing for photos with her playful mug.
Clearly aware of where she was, Adele said had intended to drop “Make You Feel My Love” from her song list but because she was in Bob Dylan’s home state she’d do the one cover in her set, pointing out how “this song broke my heart and fixed it at the same time.”
She acknowledged Prince before her encore by playing the video of his “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” on big screens. She admitted that she thought the song lyrics were about sex and fetishes before it develops into the most beautiful of love songs. Someone on her staff suggested she edit the song. Said Adele: “We can’t edit Prince in his own hometown.”
Her conversation almost seemed the equivalent of a Rolling Stone interview. One reveal was that she wrote an entire album about her son Angelo, now 3, that she scrapped before writing and recording the material for “25,” the bestselling album of the past year. She also confirmed that she isn’t married and demurely and flirtingly said she’s waiting for Angelo’s dad to ask.
All the merriment of reality belies the heartache in her music, which, of course, is real — and a few relationships ago. Adele pleaded like Janis Joplin to prove her worthiness in “One and Only.” On “Don’t You Remember,” a summons for her lover to come back, she walked the line between a country plaint and a soul shout. On the syncopated, Paul Simon-like “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” she proved that no one does a kiss-off pop song like Adele.
After 135 minutes with her, all 15,000 of us wanted to be Adele’s bestie and say “hello” over coffee. How ’bout tomorrow?