15th March 2017 Canberra, Australia
Hello, Adele, from the other side.
I watched you perform at the ANZ stadium in Sydney on Saturday night, with my 16 year old daughter and 94,998 other people. This was just one night in your multi-city Australia tour – your first time in this beautiful country, you said. Altogether, I reckon around 600,000 people will have seen you perform in Australia – that’s the population of Canberra and Hobart combined. No mean feat.
Anyway, you couldn’t see us, but we felt as if you were speaking to us directly, with your extraordinary ability to connect with your audience through your words and your music. And it wasn’t just me – I spoke today to someone who had been at your Perth gig who said – “it was really weird. It was a huge stadium, but I felt as if Adele was talking to ME.” And news.com.au wrote: “The insanely popular singer-songwriter managed to make it feel like she was singing in your living room.” Exactly.
Oh yes, there was some swearing too. Like, serious swearing. But we loved you when you said you did that because you were nervous and you always swore when you were nervous. And Australians are pretty relaxed about that sort of thing, like us Brits. Just as well, I guess.
But of course it was mainly your singing voice that had us hooked, from your first ‘Hello’; as the the giant screen rose to reveal you, a tiny sparkly figure in the middle of a vast and teeming stadium. I had goosebumps for most of the night, as you put such passion and soul and emotion into your singing.
We’re now the other side of your concert, and life goes on. I feel bereft, and jealous of the folks in Melbourne who will be lucky enough to see your shows this weekend.
So I’m getting over it by thinking about what makes you such a great communicator (as well as a global singing legend); and if there’s anything the rest of us whose jobs involve serious amounts of communication can learn from you.
I thought of ten things – yes ten! Here goes.
- You are authentic, in a bloody brilliant London girl sort of way. Down to earth, honest and direct. Great accent, great cackle.
- You take time to know your audience. Watching you wandering around connecting with random folks was impressive (especially that eight-year old girl who was so tongue-tied she couldn’t remember her age or where she was from. Bless.)
- You’re not too attached to the script. I guess you say some of the same things every night. But you are confident enough to deviate from that too, to ad lib, to take some risks. That engages us.
- Your voice is amazing, but it’s the emotion you put into every song that has us hooked.
- You’re not afraid to show vulnerability, but to bring that to bear in a positive way on your performance. And I respect the privacy you have secured for your family. The Sydney paps couldn’t find you apparently – good!
- You are self-deprecating. You laugh at yourself, your ups and downs, your exes, your eating habits, your ‘tights and boots’ on a warm Sydney evening.
- You’re open about your mistakes. You said you’d forgotten the words of one song the previous night, and asked for help to get them right.
- You are compassionate. You told us about the person who had fallen ill at your show the night before, and how you hoped they were OK (and we knew you meant it).
- You are humble. I loved the way you talked about your heroes and heroines, including that country singer I’ve never heard of that you followed into the toilet in Nashville!
- You are real, human, funny (very funny), sweet, British, a bit Welsh (Oggy Oggy Oggy), talented. I am biased of course, but, simply, you make me proud to be British.
Of course, we can’t ever be “someone like you”, Adele. But as I do a lot of public speaking and engagements, I’ll be taking a leaf out of your book. I don’t mean the swearing (my bosses in the Foreign Office will be relieved to know – I’m not sure ‘potty-mouthed Ambassadors’ is quite the thing); but I will try to take a few more risks, be authentic (even if that makes me vulnerable), engage my audience as individuals, not just a crowd; and show compassion and humour.
I’ll let you know how it goes, if you want to pop over for a cuppa and a biscuit some time.
Other than that, I’ll keep listening to your music at home, close my eyes, and remember that night in Sydney. And feel proud that we have such great singers and song-writers and entertainers from the UK, who shine so brightly in venues around the world. In fact, five of the global top 10 music albums in 2015 were by British artists.
But, right now, with more than 20 million copies of your ‘25’ album sold globally since its release, Adele, I reckon you shine brightest of all; and really could set fire to the rain.