This past weekend in Austin, Texas, R. Kelly performed for 75 seconds to a packed-house of people who payed up to $950 each to see what can only be described as a massive rip-off.
My wife and I almost went to see this “show” - out of curiosity more than anything else. The buzz around town was generally skeptical as to whether the show was legit or not. The venue where it was scheduled to take place, The Mansion, flies under the radar of the local music press, so there was little advance hype. But a lot of people ended up going and were, in my opinion, treated like shit.
Considering R. Kelly’s past karma, this whole debacle doesn’t seem like a smart way to get right with the cosmic powers that be…or your fans.
Here’s a first-person report from Devon Tincknell as it appeared in the Austinist:
Last night, I went to see R. Kelly at the Mansion, a strip club in North Austin, and it was one of the biggest scams I’ve ever experienced. Sure, there were moments leading up to the show where I wondered, “R. Kelly is playing at a strip club I’ve never heard of and general admission tickets are only 30 bucks? That’s almost too good to be true,” but I never expected it to be as worthless as it turned out. Being led into an alley by a hand drawn cardboard sign that promised a “Free R. Kelly concert” and then being beaten with a brick and robbed would perhaps have been more satisfying; at least you could file a police report.
Like most modern frauds, this story begins online with an Eventbrite page selling tickets for “An Intimate Night w/ R. Kelly (Mothers Day Weekend).” Tickets ranged from $30 for general admission all the way up an escalating price scale caste system of VIP and celebrity room statuses to the ultimate baller package of $950 for a super-duper-ultra-pimp-VIP bottle service table accommodating eight people. It was a little odd that the R. Kelly of “Space Jam” soundtrack fame-and-acclaim would be playing a remote strip club rather than say, the Frank Erwin Center, but it seemed plausible. Maybe people had finally lost interest in the plot line of “Trapped in the Closet” and Kells couldn’t pack the house like he used to. I mean, if they’re selling $950 tickets it’s got to be a real R. Kelly concert, right?
My stomach dropped a little when we showed up at a swanky strip club near the junction of 183 and 290 and right past the entrance was a sign proclaiming “NO REFUNDS.” My fellow concert goers and I joked that they were just going to play us some R. Kelly music videos, but once we saw the room we were too excited by the idea of seeing R. Kelly perform up close and personal to really believe this could all just be a rip off. R. Kelly’s legend is so great that Aziz Ansari does a bit where he simply describes going to an R. Kelly concert. And here we were, about to watch the man perform on a stage five feet from us. A stage with stripper poles on it.
Doors opened at 9 p.m. and we arrived around 10. We camped out a few feet back from the lip of the stage and danced to a DJ playing the generic rap mix you’d hear at any inner city middle school prom. We were excited as fuck. Of course, as 10 became 10:30, then 11, then midnight, without R. Kelly live and in person wowing us with his R&B styles, that excitement diminished. From time to time, a hype man yelled at the crowd, “You people ready to party?! You don’t seem like you’re excited enough for R. Kelly to come out yet!”
Sometime after midnight, he starts yelling things along the lines of “R. Kelly is in the building!” We’ve been standing around for hours but we muster all the enthusiasm we can. The strip club staff begins to clear out the VIP room for R. Kelly. Wow, okay, now it’s looking like R. Kelly actually will show! Finally, at 12:43 in the morning, R. Kelly and his posse take the stage to a medley of his hits. Kells grins at the cheering crowd, everyone loses their shit and starts taking photos with their phones, while R. Kelly just stands there smoking a cigar. Then he walks over to the VIP area and touches more hands and stands there. He is not singing. This parade goes on for a worrisome amount of time.
Finally, he finds a mic and sings a very brief a capella ditty. This is followed by a lazy rendition of “Ignition (Remix)” sung over the album version with his vocals still on it. Then after he invites all the pretty ladies to the VIP section to party with him, he moves over there and sits down. It becomes very obvious that this is it; this is the R. Kelly “performance” we just waited hours for. A moment later, R. Kelly gets on the mic again and DEMANDS that pretty ladies come party with him in VIP or “he is going to be up out this bitch.” Up out this bitch? But you just got IN this bitch, Mr. Kelly!
With the VIP area packed to the gills by a flood of ladies - so much for those exclusive hundred dollar tickets, I guess - my friends and I decided this was total bullshit and left. We didn’t pay 30 fucking dollars to party in the same room as R. Kelly’s VIP section.
If you pay for an “intimate night” with R. Kelly and it takes place in a public venue, not in a hotel room with a tarp laid over the bed, do you have a right to expect a musical concert? I believe so. When I go to the zoo, I don’t expect the tigers and polar bears to sing “Bump-n-Grind” for me. Thus, when I go see R. Kelly, a man who is famous for performing music, I don’t expect him to stand there sleepily and have his photo taken. If you are a musician and the event does not specifically say “an appearance by” or “autograph signing” or “LIVE… and drunk and not performing, just sitting in VIP,” I believe the audience has a right to expect an actual concert.
In the end however, what really bothers me is that R. Kelly is a musician supported by fans who stood by him AFTER HE PEED ON AN UNDERAGED GIRL. People that like R. Kelly’s music know he peed on a girl and have forgiven him for it! And then how does he repay that loyalty? By tricking people into buying expensive tickets for a Mother’s Day “concert,” making them wait on their feet for over three hours, and then performing a sub-par karaoke at Beerland rendition of “Ignition (Remix)?” Happy Mother’s Day, R. Kelly. I feel like I just got pissed on.
Too drunk to funk? After reading another account of Kelly’s behavior at the club, I wonder if he was too drunk to perform even if he had wanted to.
From Austin360 :
Around 1:30 a clearly loopy R. Kelly came back out and said he wasn’t contractually obligated to sing - so what he had done was a favor, of sorts - and that he was there to get drunk and if the crowd would chill out and let him do so (from the looks of him by that point, no one had had much luck stopping him) he might come back out and do some more.
These photos of Kelly at The Mansion kind of tell the tale. His performance seems to consist of chomping on a big fat Cohiba while blessing the swooning multitudes.
In this video, the crowd starts booing as a surly DJ explains that R. Kelly don’t do shit for less than $250,000.
Update: Ticket sales website Eventbrite is offering refunds to the folks who bought tickets to R. Kelly’s Austin “show.” They acknowledge that the promoter misrepresented the event. Eventbrite should be given kudos for doing the right thing. What about the event promoters Exit Black? So far, they haven’t been heard from.