THE CURRENT TREND of downcast pop – minor keys, lyrics drenched with bitterness, an overwhelming sense of despair – can be at least partially traced to the raging success of Adele, the British singer who’s smashed sales records and attracted devotees with her melancholic, yet raging brand of blue-eyed soul.
As her show at the TD Garden on Wednesday proved over and over again, though, her fiery breakup songs and teary-eyed ballads connect with audiences so well not just because of her powerhouse voice, but because of the fiercely beating heart at their centre.
“I forgot to tell you,” she said near the end of the night, “I talk a lot.” This statement had been proven true early on. A partial list of things audience members learned about Adele over the course of Wednesday’s show: Where she’s been during her stay in Boston (the zoo, some parks, an unnamed restaurant that served pork three ways); her love for the bluegrass doyenne Alison Krauss (“I am dangerously obsessed”) and the future-funk MC/producer Missy Elliott; why she decided to tackle the theme to the James Bond flick Skyfall, which eventually won her an Oscar (it was the 23rd Bond offering, and she was 23 at the time); the European name for selfies taken at Adele concerts (“Adelfies”); her aspirations toward a college degree; her love of kids (after she brought two young sisters up to the stage for pictures); her anti-plastic surgery stance; and how Amy Winehouse, the whiskey-voiced soul singer who would have turned 33 on Wednesday, inspired teenaged Adele to pick up a guitar. (To her, she dedicated Bob Dylan’s comforting ‘Make You Feel My Love’, which she’d covered on her 2008 debut 19.)
Those fun facts helped lighten the white-hot emotion that powers many of the best songs from her catalogue, which were reanimated on Wednesday night. ‘Rumour Has It’ is stormy and electric, its nods to the girl-group era made even more urgent by its thunderclap drums. Adele’s counterpoint on the delicately broken ‘Someone Like You’ is a piano that sounds like falling tears; ‘Rolling In The Deep’, which closed Wednesday’s show, still sounds massive, its slow-burn regret bubbling over on its soaring chorus. Her current single, the sourly effervescent Max Martin and Shellback-assisted ‘Send My Love (To Your New Lover)’, refracts her voice so that it loops back onto itself, a cascade of Adeles telling the poor sap who left her that she’s happy to see him take a hike.
It’s a testament to Adele’s talents not just as a songwriter and interpreter, but as an all-around performer, that the combination of mostly weepy songs and giggling banter worked so well. Her easy chatting with the audience brought to mind daytime talk shows where the host leaps into the crowd in order to get their opinions on how things onstage are progressing – only she was both host and guest, revealing her full humanity to a delighted crowd that probably would have stuck around to hear her talk, and sing, for another two hours.
© Maura Johnston, The Boston Globe, 15 September 2016