How Adele battled meltdowns, trolls and tears during her Las Vegas residency storm
Monday - 21/03/2022 06:34
The shock cancellation of her Las Vegas residency amid swirling rumours about her personal life threatened to derail all Adele’s recent hard work.
Operating as she does in the high-stakes world of celebrity, this could have been the year that Adele Adkins’ star finally crashed and burned.
Enraging thousands of fans by pulling out of her sold-out Las Vegas shows in January with just 24 hours’ notice, the multi-millionaire singer’s tearful apology, posted on her Instagram page, only served to incense her loyal supporters, some of whom had paid as much as $16,000 for tickets, flights and hotels.
Front page headlines and commentators around the world slammed the 33-year-old British singer, with lurid tales of her diva demands swirling, reports The Sun.
For the first time in her stellar career, the knives were sharpened and out for Adele.
There were claims that she refused to use the house equipment at the Caesars Palace Colosseum venue, replacing it with her own state-of-the-art technical gear.
She was said to have had a series of arguments with the acclaimed set designer Esmeralda Devlin.
She wouldn’t make up her mind, it was claimed, about exactly how she wanted to perform. Meanwhile, feverish stories about her relationship with sports agent Rich Paul, 40, being on the rocks – with many citing that as the real reason she wasn’t going ahead with the shows – painted a picture of an emotionally fragile person whose love life was taking centre stage.
Working class girl from Tottenham
All the news, stories and gossip rocked her loveable, down-to-earth image – and it seemed Britain’s most successful female singer, thought to be worth over $250 million, was on the verge of being cancelled.
It was all a world away from the Adele I first interviewed when she was just 19.
As she sat backstage at the 2008 BRITs with her feet in Dr Martens plonked casually on the table, chatting about her nan’s cooking in between raving about her “mad, bonkers” taste in music, from the Spice Girls to Robert Plant to Aretha Franklin, she struck me as a girl everyone could relate to and believe in.
Minutes before she was due for her rehearsals, she confessed she was “gasping for a fag”, rushing outside with a packet of cigarettes hidden up the sleeve of her jumper – not the behaviour of a girl with million-dollar vocal cords.
Yet when she walked out on to the stage in the semi-empty Earls Court arena, everyone from the riggers to the technicians stopped to listen to that voice as she belted out one of her first hits, Chasing Pavements.
Now, however, the working class girl from London’s Tottenham has returned to her roots, effortlessly turning her biggest crisis into an opportunity to re-engage with her fans, with recently announced plans for shows at Hyde Park and the rescheduling of her Vegas gigs.
Never has a comeback been more victorious. As former X Factor judge and music manager Louis Walsh recently told me: “Adele can do no wrong. She is unstoppable, unbreakable and completely remarkable. There is no one else like her in music right now.”
The Adele that has emerged from the storm is stronger than ever and a role model for women, proving – as her happiness guru, author Glennon Doyle, always says: “You are not defined by your troubles, but by how you deal with them.”
Face furore head-on
Before the furore erupted, Adele was flying higher than ever, with exclusive performances at LA’s Griffith Observatory in November 2021, complete with a superstar audience, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Drake and Selena Gomez, and a heavily controlled interview with Oprah Winfrey in the sprawling rose garden of the TV mogul’s California home.
She seemed to have emerged stronger and wiser from the trauma of her divorce from her husband of three years, Simon Konecki, 47 – father to her nine-year-old son Angelo. So how did it go so wrong, and how did she turn it around?
It would be a mistake to imagine it was easy for Adele to ride out the biggest storm of her working life. Her triumphant return to form has taken hundreds of hours of high-level strategy meetings, careful planning and briefings, not to mention countless emotional phone calls with friends and a couple of total meltdowns.
And while it is her British manager, Jonathan Dickins (he signed BRIT School graduate Adele when she was just 18) and his sister Lucy, her long-time agent, who have done much of the careful planning, Adele herself can ultimately take credit for turning the tables.
Those who know her best agree. As one of her musician friends tells me: “Adele has had plenty of big problems in her personal life, but she has never gone through anything like this in her career. The default thing to do for performers is to run and hide and let everyone else deal with the mess and the fallout. That’s what you pay people for.
“But right from the start, Adele wanted to face everything head on, to take responsibility and to address all the things that were being said about her. She spent hours scrolling through some pretty horrible comments online, read a lot of the most severely critical pieces. There were a lot of tears and she definitely had a few meltdowns, but she knew she couldn’t ignore any of it.
“What came across to her most was that people thought she had changed with fame, become a diva and forgotten who she was. She had a lot of conversations with her team, but also with friends like Alan [Carr]. People who have known her since she was starting out, and even her mum Penny, who just tells it like it is.”
One very close friend explains that Adele believed that because so much focus had gone into her physical transformation (she has lost more than 44kg in the past two years), many people felt she had “lost herself” in LA – where she has lived for the past six years – and turned into a self-indulgent, designer-clad Hollywood diva.
Bursting into tears on Instagram as she apologised to her fans for pulling out of her show (blaming Covid and other technical issues), and then directing them to her merchandise store in Vegas, didn’t exactly help her image.
“That whole episode was a disaster,” says her close friend. “It really shook her and made her look at how people were now viewing her. She had loads of meetings with Jonathan and Lucy, who have been with her since the start, and said she needed to show people who she was. Underneath everything, she’s still that feisty girl from London who the world fell in love with a decade ago.”
At the BRITs in February she did just that, picking up three gongs and letting rip with a spine-tingling, stripped-back vocal performance of her song I Drink Wine.
She silenced the critics with her undimmed talent (and not a single hint of a diva demand) and also endeared herself to the feminist community by accepting a gender-neutral BRIT award and then declaring: “I love being a woman.”
She followed this with an upfront appearance on The Graham Norton Show, where she admitted she was incredibly sorry about Vegas, explaining: “It would have been a really half-arsed show and I can’t do that. People will see straight through me up on the stage and know I didn’t want to be doing it. I’ve never done anything like that in my life and I’m not going to start now.”
Having been one of the few invited to An Audience With Adele – filmed at London’s Palladium last November – I am fully aware of how nervous she is about singing live, and what a perfectionist she is about all aspects of her performance.
“I’m so bloody nervous,” were almost the first words out of her mouth when she stepped on stage in front of a celebrity audience that included Naomi Campbell, Stormzy and Killing Eve’s Jodie Comer.
Several times during the recording she stopped singing mid-song because it “wasn’t sounding right” (though no one in the audience heard anything wrong). But witnessing her, it was less about being a diva and more about making sure she got absolutely every note perfect.
Having sat through her display of total perfectionism about her performance first-hand, it stands to reason that Adele would never want her fans to see her at anything other than her absolute best. Ultimately to her, it was only ever about artistic integrity, and she was prepared to take the backlash on the chin.
Same Adele we know and love
Her genius move, however, came a matter of hours later. The woman we thought we’d lost to a clean-living, vegan Hollywood lifestyle headed to a London gay club after her performance, where she knocked back drinks with her mates and delighted the crowd with an impromptu (and terrible) attempt to pole dance to It’s Raining Men. With her Fendi suit wine-stained and creased, she even stayed on to judge a riotous strip show contest.
It proved that the Adele we know and love has remained exactly who she always was, underneath the physical transformation and the multimillion-dollar sheen of global success – and that she wasn’t going to hide away.
During her appearance on Graham Norton, she admitted she wants to avoid becoming a hermit again, as she has traditionally done once she finishes her music promo.
“I definitely will [retreat], but I am trying to make a conscious effort to stop being so anal with my privacy,” she said. “I’m trying not to be two completely different versions of myself. It’s exhausting switching on and off. I will be disappearing in terms of my music, but you might see a glimpse of me now and then and I won’t be in complete hiding.”
Her personal life is looking stronger than ever, too. A year on from the trauma of divorce, she has managed to build a great relationship with her ex-husband, thanking both him (who she has nicknamed “Simon the Diamond”) and son Angelo in her BRITs acceptance speech. She also revealed: “Our family is separated, but we’re nailing it and doing a really, really good job.”
Her romance with Rich clearly makes her happy, although she still remains coy about whether they are engaged, saying: “If I was, would I ever tell anyone if I was or wasn’t?” And it looks like she’s in it for the long haul as the pair are planning to get pregnant in 2023.
Speaking about rescheduling Vegas, she said: “It has to happen this year because I’ve got plans for next year. Imagine if I have to cancel because I’m having a baby!”
Never before has such a spectacular turnaround been made. Adele, the girl from the rough streets of London who conquered Hollywood then seemed in danger of losing it all, is back – and shining bigger and brighter than ever.
This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission