This week, the BBC put out a tweet insisting that you will remember where you were when you watched Adele’s Glastonbury set. The implication: this was a seismic performance. Three NME writers joined the thousands right there in the field to give their verdict on what has to be the biggest, most talked-about performance of Glastonbury 2016.
“Her Vocals Were Stunning, But The Best Bit Is When She Talks Like Your Drunk Auntie”
Like Glastonbury itself, Adele’s set is very much not all about the music. The tunes are pretty decent, there’s ‘Rolling In The Deep’ here, ‘Someone Like You’ there and ‘When We Were Young’ thrown into the mix too, but mainly, mostly, I’m here for the chat. And Adele is good at chat. Almost too good. Throughout the show, she basically manages to have an intimate conversation with 100,000 people at the same time. It’s a bit like hanging out with your brilliantly tipsy auntie. Your brilliantly tipsy auntie who has one of those kind of voices that leaves you breathless. In terms of vocal performances, Adele’s is perhaps the finest ever to grace the Pyramid Stage headline slot. Not all of the songs are amazing, but each and every one stands out because of the way Adele Laurie Blue Adkins belts them out. She could make ‘Agadoo’ sound like a uber emotive heartfelt missive to a former flame.
Sure, she’s nervy at the beginning – after the opener – ‘Hello’, of course – she babbles “I think we’re going to have to go straight into another one, I don’t know what to say to you yet!” But she quickly manages to find a whole load of things to say. Like, tonnes and tonnes of stuff. Never has a Glasto headliner been quite so talkative. And quite so excellently rude, like an X-rated 1970s sitcom.
“Have any of you had to do a piss? Have any of you had to do a shit?” she asks the front few rows. Luckily, from where we’re stood, we can’t hear if anyone answers in the affirmative. She then plucks a 10 year old girl from the crowd. Later on, she brings on another fan called Maria and selfies with her, ignoring the fact that Maria is utterly terrified. Then she nicks a fez from a fan and pops it on her head. Then she tells a security guard he looks just like Brian Harvey from East 17. Then she apologises to the sign language interpreter for ‘stealing their thunder’ after she walks past them. Then she proudly announces the fact that the BBC had to issue a warning before their live broadcast of her set because of her “pottymouth”. “Bet they didn’t have to do that with Muse,” she says with a cackle. Bet they didn’t Adele, and that’s why we love you. Leonie Cooper
“It Was Like Watching One Of Us Up There On Stage”
Tens of thousands of people turned out to see Adele headline the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury but she contrived to make it feel like we were huddled in a local village hall, watching someone we’ve known for years. It’s an extraordinary skill, to create a sense of intimacy at the biggest stage at the biggest festival in the world, but somehow the Tottenham singer pulled it off.
She opened, of course, with last year’s single ‘Hello’, changing the lyrics to “‘I’m in Glastonbury dreaming/Of who we used to be”. Before she performs ‘I’ll Be Waiting’, from second album ’21’, she told us, “I might have to go straight into another one, my darlings – I don’t know what to say to you yet.” Could the most famous musician in the world right now really be overwhelmed by Worthy Farm? Well, that’s Adele’s thing, isn’t it? She’s just like one of us.
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A 10-year-old girl called Lyla was invited onstage to share her festival highlights – she enjoyed Jess Glynne and Bastille, and then Adele asked if anyone in the front row had been for a shit or a piss during the show. Is it all a bit end-of-the-pier? Maybe. Is it possibly an act from a mega-famous, filthy rich A-list singer? Perhaps. But it’s impossible to deny the communal atmosphere Adele forged tonight. Weirdly, in this setting, a plaintive piano ballad such as ‘When We Were Young’ was more effective than neo-soul banger ‘Rolling In The Deep’.
The show was about recognising the commonality everyone in that field shared. And, good Lord, it must have been the biggest crowd of the weekend so far. But Adele’s force of personality seemed to vacuum-pack the entire audience. She signed off after the moving ‘Someone Like You’ by promising, “I’ll see you later!” You half-expected to bump into her necking a tinny in the tent next to yours afterwards. Jordan Bassett
“You Can’t Not Like Adele After This Show, But Her Personality Wins Out Over Her Music”
I sometimes think of Adele as a virulent-but-basically-benign strain of superflu that, by a stroke of pure haemoglobic luck, only I and an insignificantly-small percentage of the species have developed any sort of immunity to. As the biggest-selling artist in the world – and British, to boot – you could hardly argue that she doesn’t ‘belong’ at Glastonbury, but the prospect of spending Saturday night listening to maudlin, low-energy relationship ballads wouldn’t seem to me like the stuff festival legend is made of; the teeming masses who have gathered in front of the Pyramid stage tonight would presumably argue otherwise.
But it turns out that Adele has a secret weapon for people like me: it’s not her songs, nor even her voice, but herself. Halfway through set-opener ‘Hello’, she suddenly shrieks “Thisfeelsfuckingamazing!” and sets the tone for the rest of the night. Later on, she brings tearful audience members up onstage to have a natter and take a selfie. When security stop the show for medical emergency in the crowd, she rolls up her sleeves and does her bit by regaling us with a profanity-laced story about an American fan who got so drunk at a gig in Las Vegas that she pissed herself (“at one of my gigs, can you imagine?”) She even manages to turn her cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ into a post-Brexit balm for the nation’s soul. You might not care for her music, you can’t not like Adele, the world-conquering pop-star-next-door.
The single biggest live moment of Adele’s career thus far – the one that, as she puts it, “completely changed my life” – was not a gig, but a televised performance of ‘Someone Like You’ at the Brit Awards. To anyone watching the highlights on iPlayer, the likes of ‘Skyfall’ or ‘Rolling In The Deep’ will probably look similarly impressive – even my mum texts me during the latter to gush about how brilliant she is. From the crowd, however, this felt like a fairly pedestrian set elevated by a handful of transcendent moments and sheer force of personality. Barry Nicolson