Adele in Las Vegas: A history of Sin City residencies, from Liberace and Frank Sinatra to Lady Gaga

British star will begin her residency at the legendary Nevada gambling resort from 21 January

Joe Sommerlad
Monday 17 January 2022 11:42
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British pop superstar Adele will commence her Las Vegas residency at The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace Hotel from Friday 21 January 2022.

Her “Weekends with Adele” concert series will see the singer take to the stage every Friday and Saturday night until 16 April. Audience members are required to be double-vaccinated and to have received a negative Covid-19 test within 48 hours of the event.

The residency follows the release of Adele’s best-selling fourth album 30 in November last year, and sees her follow in the footsteps of Lady Gaga, who gave 41 performances at the Park Theater at Park MGM in 2018/19. The US pop star presented two different shows, Enigma and Jazz & Piano.

The tradition of established musicians playing the gambling Mecca deep in the Nevada desert dates back to Liberace, who first entertained audiences holidaying in the state in 1944 and continued to do so until his death in 1987, earning as much as $300,000 per week and embodying the glitz of the resort better than anybody.

The Rat Pack were the next to entice crowds away from the slot machines and gambling tables: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop swilling cocktails and performing together at the Copa Room of the Sands Casino over the three-week period it took to shoot Lewis Milestone’s heist caper Ocean’s 11 in spring 1960.

Elvis Presley famously found redemption in Vegas, packing out the International Hotel for seven years between 1969 and 1976.

He had actually played the New Frontier Hotel and Casino for two weeks at the very start of his career in 1956 but struggled to win over an ageing audience bemused by his energetic brand of Dixie-fried rock and roll.

“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it”, he might have said, anticipating Marty McFly.

In the Seventies and Eighties, the entertainment on offer was largely provided by mum-friendly crooners like Wayne Newton, Barry Manilow and Tom Jones, the latter a stalwart of Sin City, having reportedly played there at least once a week for more than 42 years.

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These tuxedoed veterans represented a safe choice but accepting the silver dollar meant agreeing to be preserved in formaldehyde, belting out fan service night after night rather than trialling more challenging new material.

Other after-dinner entertainment included stand-up from experienced comedians like Don Rickles and Jackie Mason and magic from the likes of Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield and Penn and Teller, for whom playing Vegas represented the lucrative pinnacle of their careers, not a nadir.

By the 1990s, the evening attractions laid on by the hotels included more theatrical fare like Cirque du Soleil and imported Broadway productions.

But everything changed in 2003 when Canadian diva Celine Dion signed on to sing her greatest hits at Caesar’s.

Celine Dion performing her Las Vegas residency

Dion’s single “My Heart Will Go On” had been a worldwide smash just six years earlier, and she foresaw the potential of a residency, tapping into a captive audience with cash to spend while simultaneously eliminating the need for exhausting and logistically complex touring.

In her hands, playing Las Vegas felt like a coronation, a confirmation of her status as showbiz royalty, not an admission of defeat or begrudging acceptance of partial retirement.

Her show A New Day... duly ran for four years in the same 4,100-seater auditorium where Adele herself will now be appearing, custom-built for Dion’s arrival for a cool $95m.

According to Billboard, the extravaganza is the most successful in the resort’s history, earning almost $400m after being viewed by more than 3m paying punters over the course of 719 performances.

“Celine was a pioneer without question,” Kurt Melien, vice president of entertainment at Caesar’s​, told The Daily Telegraph in 2013.

“Twenty years ago, we couldn’t have got someone the stature of Britney Spears to appear in Vegas [she did, in 2013]. Stars likes her would never have considered it if Celine hadn’t paved the way. She changed the face of modern Vegas.”

Dion returned to Vegas in March 2011 and was due to begin another residency last November before illness forced her to postpone her plans.

Her success inspired Elton John to follow suit. His show The Red Piano followed at The Colosseum between February 2004 and March 2009, running to 248 shows and earning $169m before it was replaced by residency runs by Cher and Bette Midler respectively, the latter’s suffering dwindling audiences when recession struck a decade ago.

Elton John performing at Caesar’s Palace in 2008

Another key development brought a change to the city’s nightlife at this point: Paul Oakenfold began a residency at the Palm Casino’s Rain nightclub, a deliberate bid to attract a younger clientele.

It worked, heralding the belated arrival of DJs, clubbing and electronic music on The Strip. Calvin Harris, Diplo, Tiesto and David Guetta would all follow.

Country star Shania Twain performed her show Still the One at Caesar’s in 2012, complete with live horses. Her audience proved to be much like Celine Dion’s, mostly comprised from nostalgic fans in their thirties who had loved her in their youth.

The arrival of Britney Spears the following December saw the pop promoters finally tap into the younger crowd arriving in town for a good time.

Front-row seats for Britney Spears’s Las Vegas residency cost around $500

Like Elvis, Britney used the opportunity as a platform from which to launch a triumphant comeback, her show Piece of Me running for four years and 250 performances at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino.

Mariah Carey and Jennifer Lopez have since rolled out big shows of their own.

The concept of “mini-residencies” has also taken off in the last 15 years, with CeeLo Green, Bruno Mars and Pitbull all mounting short runs, with CeeLo’s Loberace a tribute to the man who kick-started the whole residency phenomenon in the first place.

Even rock acts have gotten in on the act. Meat Loaf, Guns N Roses and Motley Crue have all performed, as have Blink-182 and Aerosmith.

With gaming increasingly taking place on people’s smartphones rather than at real roulette tables, the “Entertainment Capital of the World” has been forced to reinvent itself and, so far, has proven itself remarkably adept at doing so, with residencies like Adele’s expected to remain a major draw.

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