After being abruptly postponed in January, Adele’s Las Vegas residency, “Weekends With Adele,” made its debut at Caesar’s Palace on Friday. She’ll be there through March 25.
An Adele residency may seem odd to some. Considering that she released her first album, “19,” back in 2008, she is a relative newcomer to popular music. And unlike other more legendary big names who have secured a steady residency gig, she’s still at the top of her game, with seemingly intergalactic popularity and stratospheric record sales. Look no further for proof of that than her latest album, “30,” being nominated for seven 2023 Grammy Awards, including for album of the year.
It used to be that when someone said that an artist was appearing in Las Vegas, the first thing that came to mind was an image of Liberace at the Riviera with his ornate grand piano and giant golden candelabra.
For decades, a Vegas residency was seen as a standing punch line in a joke — an artist’s move to try to capitalize on a quickly fading career and make some money. But Adele highlights how it’s been transformed into an artistic achievement, why it’s never going away and reminds us how Las Vegas made residencies cool.
The idea of an artist residency — defined by Pollstar, a leading publication covering the live event industry, as “10 or more shows in a single venue” — is essentially a tour in reverse. Instead of an artist traveling across the country, stopping in cities to perform for fans, the artist stays in one place and the fans come to them. Artists who have taken advantage of this new model range from the ones you’d expect. There are vocalists and those who cater to an adult demographic, like Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez, to other established names across the genres, such as Garth Brooks, Usher, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and — on the polar opposite of the artistic spectrum — Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard and Aerosmith. This isn’t a complete list because a Las Vegas residency is no longer necessarily out of the ordinary.
It used to be that when someone said that an artist was appearing in Las Vegas, the first thing that came to mind was an image of Liberace at the Riviera with his ornate grand piano and giant golden candelabra. Or perhaps Elvis Presley at the Hilton, wearing those white studded jumpsuits (with matching American eagle cape) and closing his sets with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” But once Caesars Palace essentially built Celine Dion her own theater, the Colosseum, for her “A New Day” residency in 2003, it redefined what it could mean for an artist to perform exclusively and long-term on the Strip.
Vegas residencies are attractive to artists because they’re better for their overall health and well-being. Even at the five-star hotel and private-jet level, travel is still hard on the body. When your meal ticket is your instrument, and your instrument is your voice (a thing dependent on the health of the human who uses it), you want to do whatever you can to protect it. Staying in one place for three weeks or three months is eminently healthier and more comfortable.
Who wouldn’t choose that if given the opportunity?
For those artists who live in Los Angeles, it’s a quick trip home on off days. And perhaps an added convenience is that keeping a show in one place removes the limitation and headache of getting staging that fits into a convoy of semi-trailer trucks from one venue to another. Katy Perry maximized her residency at Resorts World Theatre with a fantastical stage that included talking bed pillows, dancing mushrooms and a giant toilet. Shania Twain’s residency at Caesar’s Palace in 2012 featured her singing “You’re Still the One” on a real horse. Def Leppard filled the arena-sized stage at the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood with stacks and stacks of amplifiers as well as a full-fledged 1970’s era light show, complete with lasers. The possibilities are fantastic.
And it seems to be a big win for fans, who are by now accustomed to spending a not insignificant amount of money on parking and dinner and a sitter to go see live music. They may well make the calculation that going to Las Vegas for a long weekend and combining that with shopping, gambling or even just sitting by the pool with a book is a better return on their entertainment dollar than going to the local (enter whatever corporate name arena), fighting traffic and parking, and then watching their faves in the same venue they go to for hockey or basketball. Just because we all got used to watching concerts in a sports arena doesn’t mean it’s a comfortable or enjoyable experience compared with a performance in a facility built purposely for concerts.
Does this all mean a Vegas residency is the right fit for everyone? No. There’s a certain genre of singer-songwriter that would likely stay away from Vegas because it’s probably still a little too close to Elvis’ and Liberace’s sequins and rhinestones, but the point is that it’s no longer the definitive no that it once was. In the shifting economic climate and post-pandemic realities, a Vegas residency may be more appealing to artists whowouldn’t normally consider it. It’s definitely here to stay; the only question is who’s next.