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On a personal level, it's hard not to feel desperately sorry for Adele. The 92-second video she posted in Instagram last night explaining her decision to postpone her Las Vegas residency – due to start today – laid bare her disappointment. Her eyes blotchy and her voice cracking, the 33-year-old singer said preparation for the show has been “absolutely destroyed” by Covid and what she called delivery delays.
“I'm so sorry, but my show ain’t ready,” Adele said. Her team has been “up against so much” and they simply “ran out of time”.
“We've tried absolutely everything we can to put it together in time and for it to be good enough for you, but we've been absolutely destroyed by delivery delays and Covid. Half my crew and team are down with Covid, they still are, and it's been impossible to finish the show,” the Tottenham-born singer said.
Sitting on what appears to a be a lavishly-gilded canopy bed — this is Vegas after all — Adele repeated that she was “sorry” eight times. “I'm gutted. I'm sorry it's so last minute, we've been awake for over 30 hours now trying to figure it out and we've run out of time. I'm so upset and I'm really embarrassed and so sorry to everyone that travelled again. I'm really, really sorry,” she said.
Adele had planned a massive production befitting one of the world’s biggest stars. Local reports suggest she was going to open her ‘Weekends with Adele’ shows with her Bond theme Skyfall, backed by a 60-piece choir. Ticket prices for the planned 24-show stint in the 4,300-seater Colosseum at Caesars Palace reflected this ambition. Prices ranged from $110 to $6,160 (£4,540), including fees, and Billboard magazine reported that pre-sales had hit $50 million.
The singer was said to be earning $685,000, or half a million pounds, per performance. Black market tickets were reported to be exchanging hands for $30,000. Although Adele said all the shows will be rescheduled, she didn’t say when.
So, yes, it’s easy to see how difficult this decision must have been. And while most of the 65,000 comments below her Instagram post were supportive, some ticketholders were less than impressed. By cancelling just one day before the show was due to begin, the fans who had already flown to Vegas and checked into their expensive hotel rooms face hefty un-recoupable costs. “So disappointed!” said one. “Christmas gift gone pear shaped,” wrote another. Others pointed out that fans may not be able to afford the time and money to reschedule their trip to Vegas.
Adele has done this before, which explains the “again” in her comment about people travelling. In 2017 she cancelled her final two concerts at Wembley Stadium at short notice, irritating fans who had already travelled to London. The two golden rules to try to follow when cancelling concerts are to cancel prior to people leaving their homes and to announce the rescheduled dates at the time of cancellation. The first saves people time and money, and the second softens the blow. Adele has done neither.
“She takes all these things very much to heart,” says one music executive. “She’s clearly distraught that this has happened. But people have spent a lot of money.”
Fans should go easy on her, though. None of this is Adele’s fault. Rather, her last minute postponement is emblematic of what a complete nightmare concerts are these days. A second industry insider says that Adele’s cancellations sound “genuinely like a case of a last minute disaster due to circumstances beyond her control”. Playing a Vegas residency was meant to be an easy, manageable and safe option for Adele and her fans: with just one venue, safe protocols could be put in place and the inherent risks of picking up Covid from moving from city to city would be minimised.
But even Adele – with a vast machine behind her – couldn’t pull it off. Two years into the pandemic, and the live music world is still suffering. In the last month alone, Billy Joel, Wolf Alice, Rina Sawayama, David Lee Roth have all postponed or cancelled shows. More will surely follow. This year’s Grammy Awards have been postponed until April and moved from New York to – you guessed it – Las Vegas.
This presents a worrying problem for the industry. Touring incomes have been decimated over the last two years, and 2022 was meant to be the year that everything went right. Huge tours, many of them already postponed numerous times, are planned for later this year from Guns N’ Roses, The Killers, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Billy Eilish, Dua Lipa, Foo Fighters, Harry Styles, The Fugees, Haim, Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Lorde. These suddenly seem just a little less certain.
Although omicron cases in the UK and in many countries are falling, the strain is still problematic. According to The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the original call for Adele’s Skyfall choir was for 100 singers but only 60 could show up.
Some might argue that the Adele shows might still be going ahead if they were a little more scaled back. In its own statement, Caesars Palace said that “creating a show of this magnitude is incredibly complex”. Adele’s weapons are her voice and her personality, and neither of these need a huge production behind them in order to be showcased. However this is not the way of the world. An artist of Adele’s stature needs a big show. The stripped back performances are surely for later in her career.
There is also a Sting in the tail of this unfortunate saga. Adele’s team are scrambling to rearrange her Colosseum shows, which were meant to run until mid-April. However, Rod Stewart is booked to play in the venue from mid-May, with Sting then playing throughout June. Adele herself is due to play London’s Hyde Park in July, which means that she can’t merely follow the former Police frontman when he has finished his stint. There is a looming scheduling nightmare to sort out, just to add to the myriad other problems.
It’s all a sorry mess. Neither Adele nor her fans deserve this. As Covid-19 enters its third year, the pandemic is still causing untold havoc in the music industry.