Despite feeling all week/weekend like a truck's run over me repeatedly (I'm blaming the heavy doses of antibiotics I'm on thanks to an infected tooth I had to get root-canaled on Wed.), I ventured out last night (Sat., March 14th) to check out Adele at Warehouse Live, in the pseudo-scuzzy converted warehouses of Old Chinatown. It wasn't really "my" show, not because I didn't want to go but because the wife's a big fan and I'd gotten the tix for the wife for Valentine's Day, but I was curious nonetheless, and walked away pretty impressed.
Admittedly, by the time we parked out behind the place, the cold-and-rainy night wasn't making me real keen on the whole idea, especially since the line to get in already stretched from the building to the parking lot itself. Learned later on that the show sold out (as have most of the rest of Adele's scheduled dates, looks like), which made sense in retrospect -- I'll get to that -- but was somewhat bewildering/embittering to me as we stood in line in the cold. Who the fuck were all these people, and where in the hell were they at all those deserving local shows? H-town's showgoing public seemed to be a fickle, fickle bunch.
After that, we stood around for about an hour, mostly gawking at the oddball crowd, which seemed to be a mix of mostly lesbian couples, gangs of gay men, and scattered, lonely-looking hetero couples like ourselves. The venue had all three bars going, but in the crush of the jam-packed crowd (again, who the fuck were all these people?), venturing out for a drink seemed risky. So we stood, and muttered to ourselves, and wondered why in the hell there were two drum kits up onstage for what was billed as an Adele-only show.
The answer to that last bit was revealed when a nondescript bunch of guys strode out onto the stage, picked up instruments, and started playing some of the blandest faux-funky pop-rock I've heard in ages. They blazed through the first song, a mishmash of Third Eye Blind too-sincere pop and Maroon 5 white-boy R&B, before turning to the still-staring crowd with big, toothy smiles and saying, "Houston! How're you doing tonight?" Utterly confused, I honestly yelled back, "fine, but who the hell are you?"
Turns out Adele did have an opening band, a cheerful bunch of musos from Dublin who desperately wanted to come across as The Best Thing Out of Ireland Since U2 (the singer was doing quite a Bono impersonation for a while there, hand to the sky and all). I'm going to give them the belated benefit of a doubt and guess that when they finally introduced themselves as The Script, "the new hot band from [something unintelligible]," they were being sarcastic, but still, if you're introducing your band as "the new hot band," then pretty much by definition, you're not.
And no, they weren't. (Sorry, guys.) Nothing bad about the set, honestly, but nothing really good about it, either -- they were just there, seemingly rocking out a lot harder than the music coming out of the speakers would indicate. They did the whiteboy-funk/rock thing, then they did a soulful ballad, then back to the kinda-funky, then back to the quiet guitars & closed eyes...you get the idea. Nice enough guys, certainly, and I'm always rooting for bands from The Auld Country, but it just didn't do it for me.
The band seemed tacked-on to Adele's tour, thrown in as an unwelcome hurdle for Adele fans to get past before they could see who they'd actually come to see, and beyond that, the music was just "eh." It's fairly telling that when they started playing the final song of their set, I found myself thinking, "ooh, hey -- I like this one"...and then realized, about 30 seconds later, that it was David Bowie's "Heroes." Ahh, yeah.
By the time the stage setup got taken apart & reassembled almost completely -- moving the band backwards, removing most of the monitors, laying down a big rug thing in the middle of the stage, and setting up all the band gear in a big semicircle around the center mic (and hey, I had no clue Reggie from The Western Civilization was doing sound for Warehouse Live these days; funny to see him up there plugging in cables & shining a light around & whatnot) -- us audience folk were restless. The handful of people who apparently knew who The Script were had thankfully bailed, but it was two hours in and we, at least, were already sore & tired. I hate to admit it, but I was pretty much at the grit-teeth-and-bear-it stage of the night.
Thankfully, Adele saved things for me. She came on and proceeded to burn through every song of hers I'd heard played and several others, all in the span of about an hour, looking/sounding less like the kid she really is and more like some old-school jazz diva who could sing every fucking song backwards if she really wanted to but knows enough about restraint not to. It was pretty stunning -- even the rough, scratchy-voiced bits sounded perfectly placed, like they'd been choreographed expertly to go right where they were supposed to.
And then there was the between-song banter, which, I'll admit, was charming as hell. When she opened her mouth to sing, Adele was Etta James (whose "Fool That I Am" she covered, quite ably) or Nina Simone, but when she finished a song she shifted seamlessly into the starstruck girl from Tottenham, claiming she was nervous and terrified and waving shyly at the people frantically waving at her in the crowd. She was sweet, she was sincere but not cheeseball, and she seemed genuinely amazed and happy to be able to do what she was doing, even stopping things near the end of the show and asking that the house lights be raised so she could take a picture of the audience.
At one point early on, with the grin still building on my face, she mentioned that she'd won two Grammys, and it finally hit me: Holy shit, that's why this place is packed. Not really thinking about it, I'd bought the tix back before the Awards themselves, just because I knew my wife liked the lady's singing, and then, there we were, watching the Grammy's Best New Artist in what really isn't that big a room, really. For her next Houston performance, I wouldn't bet on her playing anywhere smaller than an arena; I mean, c'mon, she won not one but two damn Grammys. People who win Grammys don't generally play Warehouse Live.
I know, I'm probably fixating a bit too much on the odd luck/happenstance of it, but hell, it feels pretty cool to see somebody who's gone from Going to Be Big and just plunged over the edge into Absofreakinglutely Gigantic in such a close-up, intimate setting. I'm old and jaded about this stuff, these days, so I just don't go see a lot of shows that'd be considered "Big," and I feel like I haven't seen a "Big" show before it truly reached its penultimate state since, heck, watching Pearl Jam & Soundgarden play together for the first time (that was the story I was told after, anyway) at the long-gone Unicorn. And again, I managed to leave my damn camera at home, paranoid that some security guard wouldn't let me bring it in -- fuck, fuck, fuck. (This explains, btw, the crapass-ness of the few pics I've slapped up here, taken with my otherwise-wonderful but zoomless iPhone, which makes it look like we were even further from the stage than we really were.)
Anyway, moving on... The songs, the performance, the awestruck, self-effacing, fangirl-ish banter between songs -- it was all great, far, far better than I'd expected. Even other people's songs took on reinvigorated life, particularly Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" (the Garth Brooks version of which also happens to be the wife's favorite song from fave movie Hope Floats).
Towards the end of the totally expected encore of "Chasing Pavements" -- Adele prefaced her encore set a song or two from the "end" of her main set by saying, "I'm going to play two more songs, and then I'm going to go away and pretend I'm not coming back out here, because that's what you do" -- we decided to make a break for the door, hoping to beat the crowd and pausing only to say hello to a random coworker I ran into on the way out. Out the front, into the cold, around the corner, with the music crescendoing inside, and then we catch a flash of black as the tour bus door slams shut, the stage door still swinging slowly closed.
Turns out we missed seeing her charge offstage and straight back to the safety of the bus and her Myspace page by about five seconds; if I had been quicker out the door of the place and hadn't stopped to say "hey" to Steve, we'd have literally run into her as she made her escape. It's going to take me a while to work the wife past that one, looks like...
Labels: H-Town News, Live Reviews, Musical Crap, Pseudo-Reviewsgaijin || Link || E-mail || 0 comments
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