Will Adele’s Las Vegas shows ever happen?

·6 min read
Adele's postponed Vegas show has left many fans heftily out of pocket - Getty
Adele's postponed Vegas show has left many fans heftily out of pocket - Getty

Adele will be inescapable this weekend. The UK’s best-selling female artist of the 21st century will perform to 130,000 fans across two shows in London’s Hyde Park on Friday and Saturday, before appearing on Desert Island Discs on Sunday morning. The concerts will mark the Tottenham-born superstar’s first gigs in five years. Brace yourself – the Adele-ation will be off the scale.

But the 34-year-old’s hometown glory will mask a festering sore. Indeed, there are two words that the Adele camp will do everything in their power to avoid this weekend: Las Vegas. It is over 160 days since Adele cancelled her high-profile run of 24 shows in Sin City’s Caesars Palace, and ticketholders are still waiting for news of when – or indeed if – they will be rescheduled. Almost 100,000 US fans paid up to $5,750 for the prize tickets (with some commanding over $30,000 on secondary ticketing sites), and they’ve been left in limbo since Adele cancelled the run just 24 hours before it was due to start.

“I feel like you’re pouring salt in an opened wound,” was the reaction of one Vegas ticketholder on social media last week when Adele announced her support acts for Hyde Park. Another fan Cody Caffee, who’s 33 and lives in Colorado, tells me he spent $11,480 (£9,470) on two front row tickets for Adele’s final Vegas show. He is furious, particularly since Adele has been posting photos on Instagram in recent months of her millionaire lifestyle with her sports agent boyfriend Rich Paul.

“It’s disheartening to follow an artist that seemingly came from such humble beginnings [who] blatantly ignores her fans whilst she attends basketball games, court-side, buys sprawling mansions, and boasts about how excited she is to perform at another venue [Hyde Park],” says Caffee, who has held off from making weekend plans for the entire year in case she reschedules. Another fan was more forthright last week when Adele announced the Hyde Park support: “So you just said ‘F--- Vegas’, right?”

However glittering this weekend’s concerts are, the Vegas debacle threatens to permanently damage Adele’s career. Tickets for the Weekends with Adele shows sold out almost immediately last December. The plan was for Adele to play Friday and Saturday nights at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace between January 21 and April 16 (hence the ‘Weekends with…’ name).

Vegas ticket-holders venting their frustrations on Adele's Instagram post from Hyde Park - Adele/Instagram
Vegas ticket-holders venting their frustrations on Adele's Instagram post from Hyde Park - Adele/Instagram

But on January 20, with many fans having already travelled to Vegas, the singer released a tearful 91-second video clip on Instagram. “My show ain’t ready,” she explained. She blamed Covid and what she labelled delivery delays. She was “gutted”. Information about rescheduled shows would come soon. Three weeks later, Adele told BBC One’s Graham Norton Show that her team were “working our arses off, 24 hours a day” to rearrange the concerts. But there’s still no news.

Adele is already being punished commercially. Her fourth studio album, 30, was released last November. This week, 30 quietly slipped out of list of the 100 best-selling albums on the US Billboard charts (it currently resides at number 106). Compare this with her previous albums, also named after her age. At the same point in their lifecycle (31 weeks post-release), 25 was at number 12 in the US and 21 was at number three. Sales have been hammered by lack of promotion and bad publicity (and, it must be said, a relative lack of hits). The pattern is repeated in the UK. The album is currently at number 79, compared to fourteen for 25 and three for 21 at the same point.

But it’s the story behind the story that is most fascinating. What has emerged since January is a tale of creative tensions, seeming ill-preparedness and chaos. Covid was, of course, a factor. Of a unionised Adele stage crew of 35, around six were testing positive for Covid every day, according to Phil Jaynes, president of the local branch of entertainment union IATSE. But reports also suggested that the singer had fallen out with award-winning set designer Esmerelda “Es” Devlin, who has worked with Beyoncé and U2. Specifically, Adele was said to object to an on-stage pool that would fill with water as she sang (she reportedly described it as a “baggy old pond”).

Kim Gavin and Es Devlin worked together on the Olympics' Closing Ceremony - David Rose
Kim Gavin and Es Devlin worked together on the Olympics' Closing Ceremony - David Rose

In April I was approached by a whistleblower on the show. They told me that Adele had parted company with Devlin and drafted in Take That’s creative director to redesign the production. Kim Gavin, who has designed every Take That tour since 1992, would not reply to my repeated requests for comment. But two weeks after my approach, he posted a photo of Ceasars Palace on his Instagram account. “It’s great to be back in Vegas,” he wrote.

I was told that a second company called Stufish was also involved. They refused to comment but declined to deny their involvement. There was general talk of Adele suffering from stage fright, and of her not engaging in the production until it was too late. Tantalisingly, the insider told me that a documentary crew had captured the “Devlin blow-up and the total implode of the production.”

Adele’s window for remedying the situation is closing fast. She told Norton that the rescheduled shows are “absolutely happening this year, 100 per cent.” The singer gave a simple reason: “I want a baby next year.” But time is running out. There’s a gap in The Colosseum’s concert schedule between 9 July and 23 September (between Morrissey and Rod Stewart).

A teary Adele apologised to fans about the tour’s postponement via social media - @adele/Instagram
A teary Adele apologised to fans about the tour’s postponement via social media - @adele/Instagram

But the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in June that backstage workers have been laid off for that period, suggesting a dark theatre over the summer. This leaves one final window: between October 9 (following a Van Morrison residency) and the end of the year. The alternative is that Adele switches venues entirely. A spokesman was approached for comment for this article.

Super-fan Coffee is clear about what has to happen. “I just want new dates to be released and to be able to keep my seat right up at the front in the centre of the stage,” he says. “It would also be nice to get my (almost) $12,000 back if she has no intention of rescheduling, as opposed to the funds sitting in an account (likely accruing interest for Ticketmaster).”

For the moment though, one of the biggest PR disasters in modern pop music history rumbles on. And it’s a problem that will remain long after this weekend’s cheers for our homecoming queen have died down.

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