Not every Las Vegas residency has to be a cast-of-dozens, song-and-dance extravaganza, although most obviously are. When Garth Brooks settled into a five-year residency at the Wynn that lasted for 187 shows between 2009 and 2014, it was just him, wife Trisha Yearwood and (for all of the shows but the final handful) a single acoustic guitar.
Many fans have said they would have been happy if a voice and guitar was all the spectacle Adele provided during her now-postponed residency that was slated to run at Caesars Palace from January through April. Right about now, as she faces some tough decisions about rescheduling aid a growing PR crisis, a one-woman show might seem like a good idea, in retrospect, for Adele, too.
Instead, Adele went for a bells-and-whistles blowout that would have been as big as her voice — hardly the unexpected way to go for a performer undoubtedly acutely aware of the massive production values for Vegas residencies by everyone from Celine Dion and Elton John in the 2000s to Lady Gaga and Katy Perry recently. But after an apparently compressed time frame for bringing that vision to fruition, Adele reportedly balked at the last minute at what she was seeing, leading to a sudden whiff in what till now had been a series of home runs surrounding the rollout of her acclaimed and beloved “30” album.
Can she still pull it out and earn back the good will of the fans left disappointed by the nixing of the entire 24-concert runt? Here are some of the burning questions surrounding the postponement and resumption, some with answers known, some with resolutions far from certain. (Adele’s reps did not respond to requests for comment for this article.)
Adele has left the building, as they used to say of another Vegas headliner. But what about the huge stage sets that were already in place, ready to go?
Those are gone, too, reportedly. Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes, who covers the entertainment scene on the Strip for the newspaper, has written: “Those pieces, constructed by the live production company Solotech, were being hauled out of the Colosseum on Monday. This is a clear indication work on the show at the theater has stopped.” And England’s Daily Mail ran an entire photo essay showing pieces of the production being loaded onto trucks outside Caesars.
Where did those sets go after they left Caesars?
Unknown. But maybe… Fresno? That’s where the show was going through its technical rehearsals in December— minus Adele and with a stand-in, apparently — before everything was moved into Caesars in the early days of January. If the show is to revamped or even started from scratch, it’s a good bet that location is still on hold, and far from the prying eyes of tattletale Las Vegas spies.
What would have been some of the most spectacular highlights of the show, had it gone on?
Almost everyone had assumed Adele would take a more basic approach and not literally be flying, a la Lady Gaga’s entrance to her “Enigma” show in Vegas. And they assumed wrong, apparently. Adele was, in fact, going to “enter on on aerial rig,” according to the Review-Journal columnist. But she was also going to stand in the middle of a 10,000-gallon lake that was being built on stage, according to multiple sources, possibly creating the illusion that she was walking on water.
Reports say that the opening number was going to be “Skyfall,” her Oscar-winning James Bond theme. No word on whether he would have been airborne or atop the water at that point, but she would have been joined by a 60-strong choir for that opener. According to Katsilometes, the plan was actually to have the choir at 100 members, but only 60 showed up and made the cut when auditions were held in Vegas Jan. 5.
Adele said that “we’ve been absolutely destroyed by delivery delays and COVID — half my crew, half my team are down with COVID, they still are.” How much was that really a factor in the postponement?
It certainly could have been a factor, although it’s beginning to look like an overstatement as other possibly more significant reasons have been reported. From all indications, the show was already fully loaded in and ready for its final dress rehearsal on the day before opening, so supply-chain issues don’t really seem to have kept the staging and production elements from being completed. As for COVID knocking out crew? It’s a real thing, but contingency plans for that are well in effect. Not counting musicians, the union crew stood at around 35, according to an interview that local IATSE president Phil Jaynes did with Showbiz411.com columnist Roger Friedman. ““For Adele’s show, they had maybe six people a day testing positive who had to leave,” Jaynes said — and, if true, six a day out of total 35 sounds like a lot.
However, Jaynes also told Friedman that the COVID churn was not an insurmountable obstacle to putting on the show, saying they had “plenty of crew to replenish the ones who left.” Having that big a turnover rate does present a challenge in teaching newcomers the ropes, as Friedman pointed out. On the other hand, other residencies with equally big production values — Carrie Underwood’s, Katy Perry’s — have started up and gone on during the omicron surge sans delays or dark nights.
What are the unspoken reasons for the postponement, if crew outages were manageable?
The press has had a field day with that — the mainstream media, like Las Vegas’ daily paper and the New York Post, but also TMZ and England’s frequently sensational Daily Mail and Sun. These reports have corroborated what people in the entertainment biz in L.A had been hearing: that above all other cited reasons, Adele was simply deeply unhappy with the creative aspects of the show and came to loggerheads with a longtime associate responsible for designing and realizing its most visionary aspects.
The Post and the English press reported — and the Review-Journal said it confirmed through independent sources — that Adele was “unhappy with the multimillion-dollar set.” The singer was said to have “lashed out” at Esmeralda Devlin, who is one of the leaders in her field and has even been described by the Guardian as “the world’s most influential set designer.” Adele and Devlin were hardly strangers to one another coming into the production: the woman known as “Es” had designed Adele’s 2016 tour. (Her other credits include designing the closing ceremony of the Olympics in 2012 and the opening ceremony four years later, along with striking work with Kanye West, Beyonce, U2 and the Weeknd.) But sources told the publications that Adele and “Es” “butted heads,” and that the designer may even have been “dismissed” from the production. (Variety could not reach Devlin for comment.)
According to a source quoted in the Sun and New York Post, when the star” saw the finished design, she refused to take part… Adele described the pool as a ‘baggy old pond’ and refused, point blank, to stand in the middle of it. The intention was to fill it with water on the set as she was lifted up on a crane-type mechanism, creating the illusion she was floating on water.” Adele was described by the source as “already nervous, and the falling out sent her spiraling into a panic because she was desperate that everything should be perfect.”
Keith Urban has already been booked to perform on two of the weekends that belonged to Adele. What does that mean for her resumption?
It means that, almost beyond certainty, she won’t be restarting her residency before the summer months, if then. Urban, who hadn’t been scheduled to start his own Caesars residency until Memorial Day, now has additional concerts on sale at Caesars on the weekends of March 25 and April 1. So if anyone had held out any hope that Adele still might schedule some shows during her original time frame for the residency, that should have finally squashed them. But really, no one should have been hoping for that anyway. When she made her postponement announcement, she didn’t just apply it to the initial dates and leave the later ones indeterminate — she very purposely did it for the entire run.
If Adele revamps the show to her satisfaction, what is the soonest she could set new dates at Caesars Palace?
Probably the earliest that Adele could restart her residency is in July, but it would involve an interruption. She’s currently still slated to play at London’s Hyde Park July 1-2. The Colosseum’s calendar looks to be clear between the end of Sting’s residency June 18 and the beginning of Rod Stewart’s on Sept. 23, unless the resort has additional dates locked in for those or other artists that just haven’t been announced yet. Unlike other artists who enjoy rotating their time in Vegas, Adele really seems to want to do her run and get it over with in one fell swoop, but if she started up right after Hyde Park, she wouldn’t be able to get a full three-month run of weekends if before Stewart comes in. If she wants to block the dates together again, doing it some time after Rod wraps up on Oct. 1 is the only realistic scheduling possibility. But would the Thanksgiving and Christmas periods have to skipped over, given all the ticket holders who won’t be wanting to have their new dates fall on the holidays? Considering all this… pushing the start date back into 2023 certainly seems possible, too.
Are refunds available for anyone who’s not happy sitting on thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets?
Not now. Both primary and secondary-market sellers have said ticket-holders can’t get their money back until the dates get rescheduled, at which point they should be able to go for it. Or, there shouldn’t be a problem reselling them at that point, although whether they’ll go for the astronomical multi-thousand levels that tickets did in their first days on the secondary market is a big question mark, since prices had already settled down in the run-up to the planned opening night.
Who stands to lose the most from the delay?
Probably Caesars Palace, which had taken a chance by carving out four solid months for Adele’s residency, and had obviously depended on attendant hotel bookings, gaming and restaurant income as well as ticket sales for a big winter/spring. The resort had taken a big chance — albeit a seemingly surefire bet at the time — on carving out four full months at the Colosseum for Adele (except for a two-night run for Van Morrison in February that had already gone on sale before she came into the picture). Other resorts have been affected by cancellations on a more limited level, as when Celine Dion bowed out of a planned residency that was to have kicked off at Resorts World Las Vegas in November due to health reasons. (She eventually canceled an entire spring tour, as well.) But Resorts World advertised from the start that it would be rotating its initial residencies — also featuring Perry, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan and now MIchael Buble — so the pullout of any one performer wouldn’t be as devastating and leave its theater dark for months. Whether Caesars can bring in other worthy headliners besides Urban to fill some of those empty weekends on short notice remains to be seen; if Urban’s just-added dates well well, he has some other holes in his spring calendar.
Where do the fans stand on the delay?
It certainly depends where you look. Many who had tickets for the opening weekend vented on social media about their furor that the singer waited until little more than 24 hours before the first show, when many of them had already arrived in town and checked in for their stays, to determine that the old maxim “the show must go on” didn’t apply here. But others, having seen her weep, were determined to shunt their own disappointments aside and make Adele feel better. They got that opportunity when representatives of the star’s management team brought a cell phone to the casino floor and had Adele — who by then was reportedly already back home in L.A. — get on to converse via FaceTime with fans who were still milling around outside the souvenir shop in a daze. “We forgive you,” a fan from Mexico exclaimed to her, explaining that the “30” album had been such a healing force in his life that he was perfectly willing to wait it out and cross the border again later. (Adele promised to hook him up for “a free meet-and-greet” when the opening night was rescheduled.) Others chanted “We love you!,” seeing it as their job to cheer her up, not the other way around.
Could this still turn out to be a big lovefest in the end? Surely, if she and her team make some or all of the right moves, given the huge amount of good will that she is still riding on with an album that has as much fan-bonding power as “30.” A seeming black eye like this is much easier to overcome in the midst of being arguably the most popular star in the world at the moment than it would be mid-flop. (The song “Easy on Me” is still No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its 10th week, the longest such streak for her.) In retrospect, there were probably opportunities to turn this, too, into a PR triumph that went unheeded: What if she had stayed in town long enough to go serenade fans on the casino floor through her tears — or, better yet, done an acoustic set for first-weekend ticket-holders while allowing them to come back eventually for the real show? But these aren’t the kinds of ideas that occur in an emotionally volatile state, and would have been tough to logistically pull off, impromptu, even in the best of spirits.
It may yet all make a good story for Oprah in 2026 or so. In the meantime, it will be fascinating to see if Adele hugs it out with Devlin and makes at least some use of the existing designs, or opts to get the taste of this setback out of her mouth by starting the show from scratch. Or whether, like Garth Brooks did before her, she might yet realize that 99% of her audience would be enthralled just to see her belting it out on stage with a single instrumentalist for accompaniment. Maybe even standing in a kiddie pool.