Once a place ‘where careers go to die’, in Vegas you can see the big stars up close – and it makes sense for Adele
Las Vegas shows once conjured images of early-bird dinner specials, corny magicians and Cole Porter standards sung to happily clapping coach parties. But with another of the world’s biggest pop stars signing on to perform in the city, namely Adele, the Vegas concert residency is further cemented as a glamorous and lucrative rite of pop passage.
Her fourth album, 30, released last month, became the biggest-selling album of the year in the US after just three days on sale. That is the kind of popularity that warrants a stadium tour – indeed, she played to nearly 3 million punters across the 120-show stretch of her previous 2017-2018 world tour.
But for her Vegas residency, every Friday and Saturday between 21 January and 16 April at the Colosseum in the Caesars Palace casino, she will play to about 4,000 people a night. Tickets are so sought-after that they are likely to all be bought by registered fans – Ticketmaster has advised there may be none on general sale.
It used to be that these relatively intimate shows were a sign of an artist in their twilight years, epitomised by Elvis Presley: his early 70s Vegas shows were rejuvenating and iconic, but by the middle of the decade he was overweight, drug-addicted and isolated.
“For years, it was where careers go to die – you’re near the end when you go to Vegas,” says James Hanley, the news editor at live music industry publication IQ. “But that has definitely shifted in the 21st century. Céline Dion was a gamechanging moment when she came in, in 2003. Then there was the rise of the superstar DJ – the likes of Calvin Harris and the Chainsmokers had very lucrative residencies. And then in 2013 Britney Spears kicked off a wave of younger pop artists like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga.”
The city has retained a cachet throughout, successfully curating its image as a debauched yet classy pleasure spot. “It’s the entertainment capital of the United States, super-easy to fly into, so it’s a great destination [for live music],” says Greg Parmley, the chief executive of music trade body Live.
“There’s a great heritage there, going back to the days of the Rat Pack,” Hanley adds, making a residency “a bucket-list thing for a lot of artists”.
It adds up to an obvious choice for Adele. Las Vegas is fairly close to her home base of Los Angeles, where she co-parents her son Angelo with her ex-husband Simon Konecki, and she has said, even on stage, that she is not well suited to touring vast venues. Particularly on 30, her music is intimate and conversational, and her famed repartee on stage evokes the standup comedians who are also big draws in Las Vegas: this material works best when you can see the whites of your audience’s eyes.
“Adele admits she doesn’t like touring – instead, she can be situated in one place for weeks on end, so that solves that issue,” Hanley says. “It wasn’t like she felt out of place in Wembley stadium, but the more natural home of the music is the sort of environment you have in Vegas.”
The other draw, of course, is the money. The sums can be enormous: Céline Dion’s pair of residencies between 2003-2007 and 2011-2019 generated $681m (£514m) in ticket sales, and under the terms of her current deal which began in 2017, she will earn $272m from concerts in Vegas until 2026.
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But greater revenues can still be generated through touring venues with larger capacities, and Parmley says the attraction of Vegas ultimately comes down to the lifestyle of the artist. “If they are at a point in their life, be it due to family or career, where they don’t want to be on the road, Vegas offers an opportunity to have a stable base and still be performing every few nights. It’s not for everybody, but it will certainly suit some artists.”
He adds: “It’s much easier to maintain the quality of the show, as opposed to when you’re touring and you’re loading the production into a new building every night. [A Vegas residency] allows the production to be as good as it possibly can be.”
Other big stars are currently preparing Vegas jaunts. Katy Perry’s residency Play begins on 29 December, and Jennifer Lopez is expected to return after her All I Have residency in 2016, saying earlier this year: “I’ve been offered that option … I just can’t wait to get back to doing that.” The combination of security, remuneration and intimacy means that artists, to borrow the city’s fabled motto, tend to stay in Vegas.