What’s the biggest rip-off concert you’ve ever been to?
WHAT’S the worst concert you’ve ever been to – the biggest rip-off? We’ll get to R. Kelly and his turning the fans into a dairy herd soon enough. First, a personal story. Anorak once went to see Desmond Decker at the Sir George Robey in Finsbury Park, London. The place was packed with Trojan Skins, Two Tone fans and a few less enlightened hooligans. After almost two hours of waiting for Desmond Decker to appear, the singer shambled out before a now very tanked-up crowd. He sang about half a song badly and then wobbled all over the shop. The highlight of the evening was a friend of mine, who by now so utterly plastered he was almost unable to stand, vomiting onto the stage, a fleck of his chunder hitting Decker on the leg. Decker just swayed on. And then he shuffled off. And that was it.
Devon Tincknell was there:
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.
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.
So. What’s the biggest rip-off concert you’ve been to?