(Reuters) – Elton John returned to the stage this week for the first time in nearly two years, and big names like Billie Eilish and Justin Bieber are gearing up to tour the world.
But as the live music industry braced for a rebound from COVID-19 this year, 15-time Grammy winner Adele tearfully announced that the pandemic had forced a last minute report of his highly anticipated residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
The surprise announcement underscored the fragility of live music resuming after an ongoing pandemic, and it disappointed thousands of fans who had bought expensive tickets to sold-out shows that were due to start on Friday.
Adele said COVID-19 infected half her crew and the pandemic caused delivery delays. The “Rolling in the Deep” singer’s performances had been seen as an indicator of Las Vegas residencies, once reserved for late-career stars but now a sought-after gig for top musicians.
“It was really big for Vegas,” said Jem Aswad, associate music editor for Variety. “Vegas has been hit harder than most cities simply by the nature of its industry and business.”
On Friday, hip-hop group The Fugees canceled a 25th anniversary tour, saying “the continuing COVID pandemic has made touring conditions difficult.” Earlier this month, Billy Joel postponed a January show at Madison Square Garden until August. The Weeknd dropped shows for early 2022 but has new ones scheduled for the summer.
“People are cautious,” Aswad said. “We still don’t know how long this will last or what might happen next.”
“But the tours are still happening,” he added. “There is bad news, but there is also good news.”
On Wednesday, British rocker John resumed his farewell tour started in 2018 with a concert in New Orleans. Eilish is set to embark on a world tour on February 3 and Bieber on February 18.
A seasoned music industry watcher said cancellations and postponements risk permanently alienating consumers, who may be reluctant to take the financial risk of traveling to a destination for a concert or music festival. Artists can refund the cost of a ticket, but money spent on airfare and hotel reservations may be lost.
“You’re going to have people who are financially burned by this saying it’s not worth the risk,” the Observer said.
While Las Vegas has to wait Adele, Katy Perry, Usher and others continue to perform there in residence, and the city will host the Grammy Awards in April.
Adele’s postponement, however, was a setback. The shows were to follow his latest album “30,” which debuted at No. 1 in 30 countries in November, and would have been his first live appearances since 2017.
The singer was to give two shows every weekend for 12 weeks in a hall that could accommodate around 4,000 people. Pre-sale tickets had sold out within minutes, and the TMZ website reported that resellers were offering individual seats for up to $35,000 each in December.
The artist’s 2016 tour grossed $165 million, according to Pollstar, which tracks the live entertainment industry.
Many ticket holders had already been to Las Vegas and were upset that Adele was not taking the stage this weekend.
“Sorry crap. Everyone has already arrived including my wife and her girlfriends,” Twitter user Jordan P. wrote in a post. “We spent thousands of dollars bringing them there as a surprise Christmas present. This is unacceptable.”
TikTok user _alyssayung_ said she spent all Thursday afternoon “shopping for the perfect outfit” and packing before seeing text messages from friends saying shows were postponed.
“Severely disappointed right now,” she said in a video.
Some have questioned the timing of Adele’s announcement, made the day before her first show.
“You must have known the show wasn’t ready yesterday,” Twitter user Gill said. “It’s cruel to wait 26 hours before the 1st show. The money for the plane and the hotel is wasted!!”
Others were nicer. Some fans said they planned to show their support by gathering outside Adele’s Las Vegas hotel room Friday night to sing her hit song “Hold On.”
“Health will always come first in times like this, can’t wait for all shows to be rescheduled,” wrote Twitter user Ash, who had tickets to his show on Friday. “I can’t wait to have the best time of my life with you on stage, please don’t feel guilty, it breaks my heart.”
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Dawn Chmielewski in Los Angeles and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago Editing by Matthew Lewis)