By CATHERINE BUCKLER / Staff Editor &
Bryan Fisher / Staff Writer
“Do you have the tickets?”
“What? I thought they were in your purse.”
“Oh, wait. Yeah, they are. Hold it for a second.”
“Sir, can I check your purse?”
We shuffle past security.
“Are we late?”
“We have time to grab a pretzel.”
We briskly descend to the ground floor of the dark area clutching our food, trying our best not to fall on top of each other. Heels were fashionable, albeit not the most practical for so many flights of stairs. Amid a sea of flickering lights, stands Vivian Green, hovering over the stage as her ethereal presence serenades us with R&B.
The woman seated next to us stands up and cries, “We didn’t come here to see this bitch.”
Well, she has a point.
We find out that Robert Sylvester Kelly, the big act of the night, was pulled over by the ever-popular Tallahassee Police.
— R. Kelly (@rkelly) February 11, 2017
R. Kelly graced Tallahassee this past Friday, February 12th, at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. After a 45-minute delay, Mr. Kelly storms on stage, background ladies in tow, a bar having appeared on the left-most corner of the stage. Throughout the night Kelly would utilize this bar several times, mentioning that he had been “drinking since around 12 o’clock.” With liquor flowing and cigars puffing, the night was ready for a very formal R. Kelly-ing.
The show started with a bang with Kelly playing hits such as “Jungle” and “Cookie,” taking a break in the middle of “Jungle” to throw wads of cash at the front few rows. Cash notwithstanding, he was motivated to engage the crowd after the TPD fiasco, going so far as to quiet his DJs for a short monologue on his X-rated antics.
Robert Kelly is an enigma – it seems like he is the predecessor to all things meme culture, but he does it with such a sexy sincerity, it’s hard to place if he’s self aware of how ridiculous he is, or if he just knows how to work it. For the uninitiated, R. Kelly is known for singing nearly every word onstage. He managed to sing about his forehead getting sweaty, and him needing the assistance of a fine female from the crowd to wipe it off. Black Friday style, women pushed their way to the stage, hoping to mop up some forehead juice from R&B’s most ludicrous sex-star. After having five of these women give him a quick over-the-clothes examination (for his health, presumably) he resumed the show with the crowd favorite, “Ignition.”
It would be unfair to say that this was the only song people knew, since true R. Kelly followers definitely knew and appreciated more than his biggest track. Personally, we were disappointed there was no live rendition of “Pregnant” or the ever-enlightening “Sex Planet.” There is something to be said with the familiarity the fans had with his performance, actually something that doesn’t seem to be a unique observation to just us – Kelly hasn’t switched up his performance over the years. Usually you hear about the reborn performer, cases where artists constantly try to update and rebrand themselves via their look and sound. Instead, we have Robert. Robert has a tried-and-true, over sexed personality, with direct meaning lyrics to match. And maybe there’s something to be said about consistency.
There’s still a hunger to be found on 1993’s 12 Play, or a resurgence of style on 2007’s Double Up, but 2017’s R. Kelly seems lost in a void between sincerity and bankrolled sexuality. Kelly seemed convinced to protect his legacy by shouting out his “Number 1, Day One fans” and playing classic after classic, but with recent album flops and a lack of social seriousness toward his brand, he ultimately seems content bolstering his image with the use of gimmicks: all the aforementioned tactics, as well as a large R. Kelly mascot that occasionally rapped on stage.
An R. Kelly show is still a sight to behold, and one that maintains a party atmosphere for a large chunk of the runtime. One is reminded of the grand entrance from the show, an R&B king large and in charge. A camo double-rider on Robert’s torso signified a singer ready to go to war for his sex and his music, while the drop-crotch pants below alluded to an outdated style and awkward disposition. Perhaps this enigma’s outfit is a reflection of the evening’s events: a dichotomy between genuine belief and self-awareness. Hell, a trichotomy between genuine belief, self-awareness, and, well… sex. Was it ever really about anything else?
“That was exactly like the Aziz Ansari bit.”