Before I get started, I’m sure many Aucklanders - and anyone travelling in and around Auckland during Adele’s concerts - will be glad it’s over. However, was Adele worth the effort for an out-of-towner, trying out the full Auckland experience?
Was it worth the stomach churning anxiety of trying to procure tickets to the show back in November? I was taking no chances, using all technology available to me (iPad, iPhone, laptop) to give me the greatest chance of getting the prized golden tickets. Much research had been done before hand, apps downloaded, practice runs performed and finally, tickets secured - for future reference, the iPhone produced the goods. My iPad is still in the Ticketmaster queue 4 months later! So after a hasty decision to sell my kidney to afford the tickets (hey, I have a spare), the button was pressed and the tickets were mine. Saturday the 25th of March. I figured Thursday would be a rehearsal and Sunday, being the last night of her tour, she would probably be tired and ready to head home. I had chosen, in my opinion, the optimum night.
The last time a performing artist persuaded me to part with any organs it was another British singer, Sting, at the Royal Albert Hall. Could Adele match that?
On to the journey - Dunedin to Auckland – would I even make it? My airline of choice (that shall remain nameless) did not manage to deliver some of the audience to the Thursday show, which added pressure to my already frayed nerve – the only nerve remaining after trying to get tickets. Will my pilot be struck down with dysentery? Will lightning strike the plane? Will there be a family pet on the runway? All possible. But no. Once again the journey from the Edinburgh of the South (being Scottish I’m not sure that's quite accurate, but I digress…) to the bright lights of the traffic of Auckland is a success. Not sure the Adele fans from New Plymouth would agree with me, but as a frequent traveller on this route, the airline is usually pretty good. Fortunately for me, on this occasion, the Gods of aviation smiled down on me.
Arrived in Auckland to a balmy 24 degrees, the journey through Epsom to the city centre is not as fraught as feared. No concert on the Friday night, so traffic not so like whacky races. A very chatty sat-nav delivers us to the Sky City Grand. Not bad, high floor room, view of Sky Tower and lovely obligatory air conditioning for this un-acclimatised wee Scot. Dinner delivered to room. 10 mins of Dragons Den and then I was in the land of Nod. It was a tiring journey, waiting for it to stall at any moment.
Saturday morning, getting a wee bit fizzy now. The anticipation is building, having brunch in L'assiette - a French Cafe in Britomart. I had asked for my name to be written on the froth of my flat white (I had seen amazing instagram photos). The French waitress nodded and made all the right noises, however the name did not materialise on my coffee – but I was informed she couldn’t find my loyalty card. Not surprising, as I don’t have one. I guess it was all lost in translation. Oh well, brunch was garlicky and tasty and the bitter chocolate macaroon to end was perfect. My partners scrambled eggs were certainly scrambled, to within an inch of their lives!
Next, a spot of shopping - Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada. Oh my, those sparkly, shiny, sterile temples to consumerism/materialism were calling my name. Karen Walker, Bobbi Brown and the brand new building housing Chanel make up and skincare next door to Tiffany’s. I love the fake façade - not quite the same as the magnificent building of Fifth Avenue, but I don't mind a bit of pretend if it's done well like this. I am aware of this sounding shallow, but this wee Scot has those tendencies on occasion.
Anyway, back to the hotel to dump shopping, where another guest in the lift did say “it looks like you've had a good days shopping”. I agreed and added it was great. She gave me a “you go girl” – a rare bonding moment for shoppers affinity. Next, a quick change before making the intrepid journey to Mount Smart Stadium.
Tickets: check (printed twice for good luck - once in colour, once in black and white). Rain ponchos: check - to ward off any weather demons. Water: check - we don't know how long we will be out there. Where will the next water supply be? Could we die of thirst on the way? All unknown.
Snacks: check. Again, could we die of starvation waiting in the queue for the train?
Fully charged iPhones: check - to make contact with each other and the outside world if we got lost (highly possible), and to take photos and videos as a souvenir of the night.
Scots like to be prepared for all eventualities e.g. famine, drought, invasion.
We walked with growing crowd down Queen Street to Britomart Station, then straight onto the first train. It was as easy as that! No queue. No hassle. Then before we know it, we have arrived at Penrose. Now for the cruel walk to the stadium - but no, it was an easy flat stroll to the stadium, passing hawkers selling knock-off Adele T-shirts laid out on fly-tipped mattresses with dubious stains! Uh, no thanks, I'll pass.
After finding Gate A and collecting our VIP “complimentary gift” (hardly complimentary, it is courtesy of my sold kidney), a black shawl/blanket, just in case it gets chilly later. Probably wasn't that useful in 40 degree heat in her Australia concerts - just saying!
After having our bags thoroughly checked for skateboards, scooters, camera crews and projectiles etc, we are allowed on to the hallowed turf, which is lined with plastic picnic chairs. The rigging is impressive, the stage slap bang in the centre of the pitch. The screens project a black and white image of closed eyes with false eyelashes and trade mark eyeliner, which look out to every corner of the field.
So now for the 2 hour wait, we were one of the first to arrive. The Auckland weather played a blinder after 10 days of the Metservice forecasting rain. It turned out to be a lovely evening - 21 degrees with a cooling breeze. We watch the stadium fill. I wait anxiously for the people around me to take their seat. Being a bit of a short ass means I’m praying that a Silver Fern with her Tall Black husband do not sit in front of me. Thankfully they turn out to be average size, although the young lady spent the majority of the concert facing away from the stage taking snapchats of herself with Adele in the background.
The seating is cosy, to be polite. Any cosier and there may have been some 'bad touching' taking place. Fortunately the people next to us were super skinny, so we lucked out.
Then, a few roars from the crowd as they think they spot the magicians box Adele is wheeled to the stage in. Most fans know to look for the unglamorous arrival now. Just before 8pm, the lights dim and it's show time. The closed eyelids on the screens begin to flutter, the screens rise to reveal Adele singing the word Hello over and over again. I am shaking and a little emotional. The impact is quite forceful. I have never had quite a reaction at any other concert. The rich, deep, booming voice fills the stadium and probably down to Hamilton. The sound is astounding. Quite the entrance from the down to earth Londoner. Classy and visually entertaining. Adele opted for a customised version of a Zuhair Murad Fall 2015 couture look. Zahair Muhad spent 500 hours in his studio attaching Swarovski crystals to Adele's gorgeous burgundy gown - it created a stunning effect.
After the stunning entrance and the complete rendition of ‘Hello’, Maori in traditional dress take to the stage to perform a Haka, which moved me as a kiwi citizen but also clearly moved Adele too. She wiped the tears from her eyes. Her make-up artist of 10 years is a Kiwi, and Adele informed us that his mother was one of the performers. It was a nice touch for New Zealand.
Knocking out one hit after another, you couldn’t fault how amazing Adele sounded live. She pauses to tell us about how she came to write and perform the Skyfall theme before performing it. She had a New Zealand male choir accompany her on Skyfall, and it was a spectacular performance. Adele goes on to describe her unglamorous making of the video for the huge screens of her gracefully drowning in a red frock. In real life, there was an underwater scuba medic below her, just in case she was about to drown. It took three and a half hours to film what could only have been seconds on screen. She said she loved the way she looked in it and she will watch it when she's old like "Grey Gardens" - she asked the audience if anyone else likes Grey Gardens? I shouted with all my lung capacity, yes! I think I may have been the only fan of the story, although maybe a few friends of Dorothy in the crowd were excited by the reference too, of Little Eadie Beale (the cousin of Jackie Kennedy) who ended up living in complete squalor in a dilapidated East Coast mansion. She lived in faded glamour with only a few cats to listen to her regale tales of her fabulous youth.
Anyway, this reference struck a chord with me. It was a connection – yes, I know what you're thinking, signs of a stalker here. But no, just a human connection. I think that’s what Adele excels at, being real. Being a Scottish Kiwi Citizen I know that we like 'real'. We can spot a fake at 10 paces. I am sure her funny ways and stories struck a chord with many in the crowd, and as Adele said - if you were dragged along by a wife, girlfriend or partner and Adele really wasn't your cup of tea, then on the bright side you were likely to get lucky at the end of the night. In her own words, her music is quite “baby making”. As for my partner - he wasn't dragged along, but I'm not going to say if he got lucky.
Fast forward through the show, there was pyrotechnics, confetti rained down with handwritten messages (I like to think Adele is scribbling away every day, writing on each tiny piece of confetti). She stuck signed photo and note to someone's chair, and T-shirts were fired into the audience with $20 notes so the lucky recipient could have a drink on her.
She made everyone put on their phone torches, which was stunning to see an entire stadium lit with only the lights of modern technology, and a kiss cam which had lots of feel good images. She engaged with her audience - she made women and men continually laugh out loud. That is not something you would expect of someone who has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, has a stack of Awards and even and Oscar all at the age of just 28! It is even more remarkable as, in her words, her songs are basically two hours of misery to music!
She was not afraid to make herself the butt of the joke, continually referring to her 3 chins and calling herself chunky. She seemed to be enjoying herself. She said that she felt as if her feet were on the ground here, and even though she was emotional to be so far from home she had connected with New Zealand. Even the crappy Auckland traffic got a mention. For me, hearing that voice was the most special thing. I kept thinking listening to her, no one could be sitting in the stadium thinking she is just a glorified karaoke singer. To me, she is up with the greats like Etta James and Barbra Streisand. She has an amazing vocal range, and to hold that audience with nothing more than a voice for two hours, no twerking, no back flips, no back up dancers to provide distraction, and thankfully, no support act.
All too soon it is the last song. She spoke to two people in the crowd who were rushing off to obviously to try and beat the crowds back to the trains. She told them that she used to always leave concerts 2 songs before the end. She told them to have a safe journey. After she told the story about why she wrote “Someone like you” which was funny and moving, she asked the crowd to join in singing, and everyone did.
Then all to soon it was over, and the slow march back to the train began. Peppered with poor renditions of “Hello” from groups of women who were a little emotional and a little worse for wear. Some were, as we say in Scotland, 'blootered'.
We had an hour and half wait for the train but everyone was in good humour and no one seemed to have a negative thing to say. We were serenaded by a busker who, not knowing the words to Hotel California, made a sterling job of making them up.
So was Adele worth it? The answer - a resounding yes. She will be around in 10, 20, 30 years time. Not sure many of her peers can say that. But how many times will she tour? Not sure. She seems to be so grounded after what has been a monumental start to her adult life. Her priorities may not be touring in the future. So, after having seen her and heard her, would I do it again? Yes - in a heartbeat.
As for my return flight to Dunedin - we are just about to land 10 mins early. Who would have thought!
* Adele did not sponsor this article (I wish).
** Sting or Adele? Without a doubt, Adele.
*** Best chicken club sandwich I've ever tasted? Late night dining menu, Sky City Grand