LONDON — The first words out of Adele’s mouth at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday evening were memorable ones. “F— me,” the singer said. “I have never been so f—ing scared in all of my f—ing life.”
The singer’s anxiety as she began the first of four shows at the London venue, dubbed “The Finale” because they end her 18-month tour run on “25,” was understandable. The opening show broke attendance records for Wembley, drawing nearly 98,000 fans to the in-the-round setting — breaking the venue record set by U2 in 2009. The singer, who joked that she’d considered canceling the concert the night before, was quick to note, however, “Once I settle into me nerves, I’ll be fine.”
Settle she did. As the 18-song set unfolded, frequently interrupted by the singer’s rambling, hilarious chatter, Adele seemed more and more at ease in the massive arena. From her opening number of “Hello,” she grew increasingly more comfortable with the space—and with the fact that the fans circled the stage, which was set aloft in the middle of the field. By her fifth number, a lively rendition of “Rumour Has It,” Adele had found her groove.
She rolled through a selection of both hits and deeper album cuts and scattered her setlist choices across all three of her albums rather than emphasizing “25.” The set, which lasted nearly two hours and had no opening act, relied on Adele’s voice to carry the audience through. The production was minimal and classy. Video screens encircled the stage, playing clips previously used in this touring cycle, although the shots of London during “Hometown Glory” were edited to include shots of a burned Grenfell Tower — the singer made an impassioned plea for audience members to donate 5 pounds each to the relief fund for victims of the fire earlier this month, in which an estimated 80 people died.
In a lighter moment, the singer brought out a men’s choir for her rendition of “Skyfall,” joking that they’d ignored her request to perform shirtless; a fireworks display illuminated “Set Fire to the Rain,” the song that concluded the main set.
Despite the enormity of the venue, which implemented heightened security checks at the entrances, Adele encouraged a feeling of intimacy throughout. The circular stage gave her the means to interact with all sides of the room and she took a pause midway to fire a T-shirt gun in four directions (“Say hello to my little friend,” she quipped, gripping the gun). She repeatedly told the crowd that she’d forgotten the words to the next song, asking for help with each lyric. Whether she actually needed the help was a moot point; the assertion gave the audience an even bigger motivation to sing louder and more forcefully. As Adele launched into “Someone Like You,” the three-track encore’s finale moment, there was a tangible sense of community. The collective feeling of 98,000 fans, all who have felt hurt or heartbreak at some point in their lives, lingered after the final notes.
The impact wasn’t lost on Adele, who took a moment to thank her significant other and her son for their support: The night’s performance marked the singer’s 120th global show on this touring run. Before the last track, Adele choked up, telling the crowd how blown she was by the experience.
“For someone who was terrible at touring, who was unreliable at touring — I couldn’t even get insurance when I wanted to do this tour,” she said. “It wasn’t until I did the U.K. and Europe shows that I finally got insured. I only missed one show. And, I swear to God, I actually had the flu… For someone who could never get passed about 40 shows without having a breakdown and now I’ve done my 120th after this next song. I have to give myself a massive, massive, massive pat on the back.”
The singer mused on whether or not she’ll tour again in a handwritten note reproduced in the tour programme:
“So this is it after 15 months on the road and 18 months of ’25’ we are at the end,” she wrote. “We have taken this tour across UK + Ireland, throughout Europe, all over America and I finally got to go to Australia and New Zealand too.”
“Touring is a peculiar thing, it doesn’t suit me particularly well,” it continues. “I’m a real homebody and I get so much joy in the small things. Plus I’m dramatic and have a terrible history of touring. Until now that is! I’ve done 119 shows and these last 4 will take me up to 123, it has been hard out an absolute thrill and pleasure to have done.
“I only ever did this tour for you and to hopefully have an impact on you the way that some of my favourite artist have had on me live,” the note concludes. “And I wanted my final shows to be in London because I don’t know if I’ll ever tour again and so I want my last time to be at home. Thank you for coming, for all of your ridiculous love and kindness. I will remember all of this for the rest of my life. Love you. Goodnight for now.”
“The Finale” dates mark the end of Adele’s live performances for the time being. The singer told the crowd that she’s looking forward to “smoking fags and drinking whiskey” after Sunday, although her real plan apparently involves being a mother. After thanking fans for their endless support and commitment, she explained her desire for a private life away from celebrity spotlight.
“I know I come across as very anti-fame and anti all that and it’s because I am,” she said. “It’s because I want to surprise you. I want the element of surprise for every time I come back and it’s so hard to maintain that.” She added, “I am going on break and I am just going to be a mum for a bit and I’m looking forward to that, but I’ll always write music and I’ll always put it out and I hope that you’ll be here. I might never see you again at a live show — who knows — but I will remember this for the rest of my life.”
Adele’s nerves vanished by the time the set ended. As she departed, in a London black cab that drove her slowly from the stage and out of the arena, Adele seemed elated rather than anxious. “It’s amazing what 24 hours will do,” the singer noted at one point, clearly realizing that 98,000 doesn’t feel like too many people when they’re all singing along.