Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Adele at Glastonbury???

by Alfie Perry-Ward

I’m on the train back from an open day that lasted way longer than it should have done; while I’m struggling to get 3G, two guys behind me are laying in to the fact that Adele will be headlining Glastonbury. Initially, I assumed they were mistaken as I thought that Muse were headlining the Saturday night slot. After a quick Google, I find that I’m not entirely wrong; Muse were headlining, but on the Friday. Lo and behold: Adele- your Saturday Night headliner (with Coldplay jumping out to conclude on the Sunday).

I was most surprised at how unsurprised I was. She didn't seem that out of place among two huge bands. A solo woman above two colossal, all-male guitar-led groups and I was unsurprised? After considering the rest of the line-up for a good ten minutes, I was pretty impressed. I didn't think it was a special year by any means, but I could definitely see it appealing to the masses while remaining slightly divorced from the charts (something that Glastonbury gets right very year). It was about then that Adele started to look odd at the helm. Surely Muse would have been a safer option? They just seemed more suitable. 

My doubts didn’t lie in the fact that I didn’t reckon she could pull it off. I would argue that she’s right up there as one of the most talented singers to emerge in the last ten years. Whatever she sung at Glastonbury would be sung well, that was a given. Whether or not the songs had the depth to sustain a headline worthy performance was anyone’s guess. I certainly didn’t think so.

I would happily go to a gig for 90 minutes of love ballads at any other non-festival venue. I thought that perhaps she would maybe make a pretty decent Saturday afternoon warm-up act. Adele as a popular, pre-headliner gig would make more sense than the principle act on which the rest of the festival is gauged. The Saturday night headliner of any festival should be a monumental blowout provided by a band on the periphery of the Rock and Roll hall of fame- if not already in it. Adele didn’t fall parallel with this criteria and I remained sceptical right up to the start of Glastonbury.
Watching from the comfortable domain of my front room, I was obviously unable to experience the gig as a punter. It seemed quite stagnant in places, especially between songs where she would do an almost grandmotherly waddle from one part of the stage to the other. At points it was pretty unbearable to watch and I got a little frustrated at how staggered the pace of the show was.
In fairness, she was doing all she could to woo the crowd. Equally, they were lapping up her charm. She put them at such ease. It was like a seated concert rather than a headline act in a weather struck field. In addition to the conversational tone was a huge element of intimacy and crowd connection. This is something that many people at home picked up one. Adele clearly has a strong resonance with her listeners and she is incredibly likeable and endearing.

If I’m honest, I resented the inviting up and interviewing of fans onstage. I felt it was just stalling for time and served to take away from the essence of Glastonbury, especially when she had to repeat questions or when the fans were stumbling to take selfies (I’m guessing a first for the Pyramid Stage). I can’t really object to the little girl being onstage because that was a real heart melt. Maybe I’m just being cynical, but for me that whole aspect was cringe-worthy. 

To slightly contradict my own opinion, one thing I did like about it was her unapologetic refusal to conform to the usual Glastonbury style of doing the gig, doing an encore and retaining an element of mystery. Adele completely shattered the chasm between audience and band (Stanislavsky would be proud!). It resulted in a hugely intimate and very personal performance. For every time I shouted at the Telly in frustration, there were an equal number of times that I genuinely believed that a love-ballad headline act could work. That quietude that comes with the steadiness of Adele’s songs was transmitted right to the far corners of the main arena and although I was hugely sceptical of this I finished watching her with the realisation that the silence of a Glastonbury crowd held as much power as one gigantic cohesive mosh-pit.

I also hugely underestimated how good a songwriter she is. Having only been exposed to “Someone like You” and suchlike, I had little knowledge of her wealth of absolute tunes. “Send My Love” worked so well on the Pyramid Stage as did “Hometown Glory” which was the best belter of the evening. Her cover of Dylan certainly stole my critique of her; she does the song more justice than its writer could ever have done.

At the end of the day, it was a great gig. The audience seemed captivated throughout and it clearly meant a lot to Adele as the chorus of “Someone like you” echoed into the night. Whether or not it was a Saturday Night headline-worthy show is questionable. Although, with more flowing transitions and less audience invites on stage, I think that love-ballad artists are just as entitled  to the Saturday night headliner slot on the Pyramid stage as any major rock group. Adele had found a new fan in this blogger.

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