SALT LAKE CITY — The crowd was skeptical when Wanda Jackson took the stage to warm up for Adele. People left to stand in line for chow, updated their Facebook and Twitter statuses, and a group mumbled, “Whose grandma is that on stage?” Wearing a white leather jacket with tassels and supported by five attractive 30-somethings, Jackson rapidly started rocking out and coaxed the crowd to pay attention.
Her country, rock, and yodeling abilities seemed untarnished by time; it nearly convinced me her veneers were the set of chompers she was born with.
“It was 1955, and the first person I went on tour with was a man named Elvis Presley,” she recalled. “We dated somewhat, and he even gave me his ring; and I wore around my neck in ’55, and ’56. He became very important to me because he talked me into trying rock-and-roll. He didn’t even have a name for it, but he assured me, and made me promise to try.”
The crowd stopped distracting themselves, and thoroughly enjoyed her performance. Her back-up musicians, The Dusty 45’s, were spot-on for Jackson’s set in rose oxfords and suits, and Billy Joe Hughes played an excellent trumpet that was set ablaze for the final number. Jackson kept her feet rooted, for fear of revealing her woeful ignorance of current pop-n-lock routines, but the 45’s kept the crowd visually entertained with their high energy performance.
Adele was presented very much as a diva: Her hair was huge, her eyelashes were huge, her nails were huge, her earrings were huge, her elegant black dress and flawless make-up made quite an impression on the crowd. The pianist entered the stage alone and began tinkering on the keys, while Adele flexed her range and power and sang like an established diva—think Mariah or Whitney with more gravity and depth—through My Hometown. Her hair was blown by two fans, and three camera angles panned in and around, and faded from close to wide shots.
It was an epic black-and-white music video with all the minute details right, until Adele addressed the crowd. “We need to move these fans or my wig will come off!” she said jokingly. “It’s so hot here, but seriously, I’m going to turn it this way toward the crowd because I am being blown away.”
Her cacophonous brogue and coarse verbiage snapped you back to the reality that Adele is a very normal 23-year-old, having the time of her life. She drank from a mug with a dachshund and told stories of her puppy at home. She mused about past loves and the reconciliation with the man who broke her heart and shaped her album. She talked about gaining and losing and remembering best friends. She also interacted with the crowd, giving away her mug to an appreciative fan, signing clothing that was thrown onto stage, asking for personalized lessons on how to whistle and for a fan to give her a cup that flashed and glowed being sold by the shaved ice vendors.
Although she is an international success, Adele can poke fun at herself and knows how to please her demographic. She doesn’t dance; relying heavily on hand gestures and waves, and is wont to belt her songs sitting down. “I have seven music award nominations and I’m sitting in a chair…what a joke!” she said. Commenting on her nails from the day before: “I don’t play guitar anymore because I’ve always got my ghetto nails on—they are red, white and blue with stars—and look tactastic with this elegant dress.”
The set was vintage inspired, with Victorian lampshades dangling backstage. The sound was impeccable, the crowd was very friendly and appreciative, and fans felt compensated for the show at the end of May that Adele had to cancel due to voice strains.
She was forthright with her fans about an encore, not wanting to hurt any feelings. “This is my last song,” she said, followed by an immediate torrent of boos. “Not really! I’m going to leave the stage, and pretend like I’m not coming back, and then I’ll come back. Honestly, I’ll take off my shoes and drink a bottle of agua, and we can finish up.”
She ended with crowd favorites Someone Like You and Rolling in the Deep, which had legions of fringe viewers pressing to be in the throng. People left skipping, holding hands and singing their favorite song. Adele is truly a world-class performer.