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August 25, 2011 


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LEFSETZ LETTER


Adele At The Greek
Posted: August 25, 2011
"21" is "Hotel California", it's "Rumours", it's "Jagged Little Pill", we're still at the beginning, most people still don't know who Adele is, this album's gonna sell and sell and sell. Because of its quality, because of its authenticity, because of its humanity.

This was the hottest ticket of the summer. Sold paperless, it was like squeezing Shaquille O'Neal into a Smart car, demand far outstripped supply, the vibe was palpable, this was an event.

But it was unlike that which is publicized, that which is pre-sold, with a trailer revealing all the best moments. This concert existed outside the mainstream, you had to be there, which is what made it so special. It wasn't about the dancing, wasn't about the production, it was about the music. And in the Top Forty/mainstream world it hasn't been about the music in a very long time.

It's been about brands, about beats, about artifice, about money more than art. And the public knows this, which is why the mainstream has become a backwater, which is why as big as you think Adele is many people have still not heard "21". Many believe the days of music touching souls is done, but when they hear "Turning Tables" they're reminded of an era when music was the most powerful art form, when a record rode shotgun, accompanied you through life, was a companion making every day just a little bit easier.

For far too long, music has been a communal experience. To be listened to in da club, with your buddies, an ingredient but not the main course. But "21" is positively personal, all you need is it and you. That's enough. And to hear an album like this live is to have a peak experience. Like a phone call from your best camp friend, like a clean full body scan after you've recovered from cancer, it's thrilling, makes your heart palpitate, makes you feel so lucky to be alive.

This is not "American Idol", it's not "X Factor", it's certainly not "The Voice". The contestants on those shows are two-dimensional, whereas Adele is fully-rounded, she can step off the screen and be your best friend. That's what all the women said after the show, they wanted to hang with her. Because Adele evidenced what all of today's stars do not, a personality. She laughed, she swore, she engaged, it was like the most popular girl from school stopped by to sing a few songs, and she was only interested in you. Strip the show of its music, just leave the patter, and it was still a 10. How was she so relaxed, how was she so honest?

First of all she's young. That's what struck me. She was a twentysomething with an unlined face. And she's no longer fat. But she does not look like anyone else. Somehow the Brits have got this down. It's like Adele's fashion sense got stuck in the sixties. It's not about appearing hip, but elegant. Like you're going to a cocktail party as opposed to the mall. The look creates its own context, evidences respect, for the music, the audience and the art form.

She sang everything you wanted to hear. "Turning Tables" was the peak. But the surprise was "If It Hadn't Been For Love", the cover that is tacked on to "21" as a bonus track. The genre-hopping was mindbending. Today everybody just does one thing. The demonstration of range was staggering. "Rumour Has It" was infectious. "Set Fire To The Rain" was a conflagration. In an era where people cherry-pick the hits, everybody knew the album cuts, like multiplication tables, they sang along without thinking.

And if you think I'm not conveying exactly what it was like to be there, you're right. That's the essence of a great show, you can't really describe it, you had to be there.

It'll be eons before you can see Adele in such an intimate venue again. We knew it was something special. We knew we were witnessing a rebirth of what once was. An era when music stood apart from the rest of media, but ruled all the other art forms like a baron.

P.S. She said that half her hair was a wig. When Kim Kardashian won't admit to plastic surgery, when Christina Aguilera gets boob implants, feeling inadequate despite the level of her stardom, the honesty was not only refreshing, it bonded you to her, especially in an era where everybody famous, from politicians to sports stars to entertainers, lies.

P.P.S. She told the story of her best friend. How she stalked her and at first Adele was reluctant to commit. Then they fell out. Then, years later Adele called her on New Year's Eve and they're best friends again. That's life, not Bentleys, private jets and vacations in exotic locations excluding the hoi polloi.

P.P.P.S. She kept having the house lights turned on. Asking the attendees if they'd ever paraglided, all kinds of crazy shit. Usually there's a wall between performer and audience. That was obliterated last night. I want to see her again just to ensure she doesn't do the same raps every night. It seemed so off the cuff, just for the moment.

P.P.P.P.S. Before performing a cover of "Lovesong", she went on to say what a Cure fanatic her mother was, taking her to a gig when she was barely out of diapers. Maybe it's not about getting your kid into the right school, but making sure they have the right experiences.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Yes, most of "21" was about her ex. And everybody knows this. She referenced him again and again. And at one point, the audience groaned and expressed sympathy and after saying she was over it, she was okay, Adele said: "I'M PLAYING THE GREEK THEATRE, WHERE THE FUCK IS HE?" How can you not love someone like this. Who pushes aside the prescription of saying nothing negative and expressing no ambition. This is how we all feel after escaping from the losing side of love. We're still wounded, but we soldiered on, we made it, WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO THEM?

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