Why Badu & Other Performers Need Not Be Tardy For The Party

I didn't attend Erykah Badu's concert this past weekend at Chastain Park Amphitheater in Atlanta, but I, like many of you, heard the news that the power was turned off at 11 pm, hindering her from finishing her show and disappointing legions of fans who were present. And I'm sure they were mad. Who wouldn't be pissed to have Ms. Badu, who was front and center rocking a golden mohawk singing her new material, classics, some old school hip-hop and even a little Motown, cut off in mid-groove? But, here is the thing: Ms. Thang was late. She was not just five minutes late, or even a half hour late. She was a full hour and some change tardy for her own party.
After the bounce

Her opening act, Bilal, had come and gone and her band had even started warming up the audience before she got to the stage. That was nice, but that was no Badu. When she finally did take the stage, she didn't even acknowledge her lateness. No "sorry." No  "my bad." No nothing. 

I'm sorry, but that is just unaceptable. Accuse me of having high expectations or what have you, but I think that being late is one of the most disrespectful things an artist can do to their paying audience. Furthermore, not only should they be called out about it, but fans should make a point of choosing wisely when it comes to attending their next concert, particularly if its not a free event. I say all of this as someone who is pretty much too distracted by my own life to really delve into the why of what made you late but is more concerned with are you sorry you were late and for you not to do that ish again. From what I hear, though, lateness is a common thing with Badu at her concerts and she's not likely to change that up anytime soon. Remember, this is, after all, a woman who once said that "time is for white people."

I have to admit, if I had gone to that show to see Erykah, I would have been one of the main ones pissed and disappointed that the concert was cut short due to her tardiness. For one, I don't like waiting. This should be of no surprise if you read my Dissection of a Concert post about Janelle Monáe's concert  earlier this year in DC. I love Janelle like a play sister, but shorty's lateness was unbearable in that mosh pit of sweatiness that is the Black Cat.

Secondly, concerts are economic and time investments for me. I'm not rich by any stretches of the imagination, so paying for a concert is money coming out of my household. I'm a working mom who chooses very specifically when it comes to what evening activities I attend. My attendance at a concert means time spent away from my child. It also means making time that replaces something else that is part of the normal routine that will have to be made up for later. My time is very important and valuable, as I'm sure the time of many folks who attend concerts is. While we are making transitions or arrangements often to attend an artist's concert, here we are met with an artist, who is being paid to perform yet fails to live up to the expectation of the business transaction we as the concert goer agreed to. If artists would recognize their arrival time as just as important a business responsibility as their sound and overall appearance is, then lateness would probably not be as common an issue as it is. 

A change in behavior is due to happen, though. I'm sure those artists who have problems with timeliness will be stepping it up soon, mostly because their pockets are hurting. Music is not selling like it used to. Sales dropped 25% from $38.6 billion in 1999 to $27.5 billion in 2008 according to industry experts. As the internet continues to be a place where music is shared freely (or rather cheaply), concerts will be the only route for many to recoup any sort of profit necessary to offset production and other back alley costs that push many a mainstream artist towards financial ruin. For the indie artists, concerts are the only pathway to profit most times, if only to show your skills live so that folks will be compelled to shell out money for your CD. I think it's only right though that the expectation is in place, for being on time is also a trait of some of our best artists. The Stevie Wonder concert I went to and wrote about this past spring is a testament to his professionalism.

As step down from my soapbox, and turn to you Bouncers, I ask you seriously: Is a performer's tardiness to a concert an issue for you?

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30 Responses

  1. agree 100% ...doing concerts, making CDs and whatnot is essentially the artist J O B. Would you be late to a "regular" 9 to 5 without an excuse or without calling in ahead of time? Probably not. So why be late to this type of job. It is very disrespectful to your paying public. I could have paid a bill with that money but instead I chose to basically give you the money so that you can entertain me and you didn't even have the courtesy to show up on time.
    that is not what's hot in the streets

  2. I feel you on this post completely! If I can make it my business to be on time for the start of the concert, the artist needs to make it his or her business to be on time as well. Why even put a time on the tickets if you're not planning on being there on time?
    Don't get me wrong, I love Badu's music, but if I spend my hard earned money to come and see you perform, I'mma need you to give me my money's worth, and that entails you starting your show at the scheduled time. When the audience gets cheated, you cheat yourself.

  3. I used to agree with you 100%, but after this past year of actually becoming friends, knowing, and traveling with artists I have to give them the benefit of the doubt.
    There are countless times where late start times are beyond the artist's control. They might get stuck in traffic or their flight was delayed. They might have had technical issues at soundcheck. And yes, they might be getting mentally prepared to go on stage and rock the crowd.
    In many situations it has nothing to do with being a diva or an asshole. Sometimes it is what it is. And for the record, Ms. Badu's performance at the Summer Spirit festival started on time.

  4. @Stone: No, Badu's performance at the Summer Spirit Festival did not start on time. Her band killed time for about 15-20 minutes before she finally took the stage and Merriweather Post Pavilion turned the house lights up while she was still singing because she went past 11 pm.
    Love Badu, but she really needs to get it together with this concert timeliness thing.

  5. This happened during her Atlanta show and Ive heard of similar situations in other cities (it pays to read tickemaster reviews). Saved me money because I will not be paying to see her or anyone else with a reputation for this. Its ridiculous. Sometimes there are issues outside of the musican's control, but there are some acts who seem to do this so often it has something to do with them and their lack of respect for their audience's time.

  6. I honestly have no expectations for a concert ot start on time. I actually never went to one that didnt start at least 40mins from when it was suppose to. But It's worse in between acts which they should fix.
    @ stone I never been around many artists but Ive been around reg. busy people and the same things happen more or less. So being late becomes understandable. & yes we can't blame everything on artists.
    Kind of reminds me of that article about Lauryn Hill on Clutch mag.

  7. I was there and was so upset that she had us waiting for over an hour and 30 minutes after Bilal closed his short set. He was on time and could have played longer if Miss Badu wasn't chillin at her hotel. Her band was set up and ready to go! Artist need to think more about how much a concert is costing now days and respect those that pay to see them.

  8. I attended Ms.Badu's concert in Chicago. I abso adored it!!! However, she was extremly late but extended the concert an hour and a half. I'm sure she got hell for it but there were no complaints from us (the audience). I didn't mind that she was late because she gave the best concert I've ever been too. It was worth the wait.

  9. THUNDERDOME..................................................:-) I mean really??? Tina pulled this look off 20 years ago be original Ms. Badu with your chronically late ass!!!!!!

  10. This sounds like some extremely angry and bitter criticism. She may have faults, as every other person in the world, but her performance is never lacking.

  11. Similar thing happened when she performed in London last month, the concert was billed for 7 pm so everyone expected her to be on stage by 9 pm, she didn't come on until 9:45; by 9 the audience had already lost their patience, they booed everyone that walked on stage which included the DJ and Erykah's band.
    Unlike Atlanta she actually finished her performance in it's entirety, we got our moneys worth so I can't complain but if I was one of the people who came to see her in Atlanta I'd think twice before I go to see her.

  12. @Chris, I think you're stating the obvious. Lateness does annoy me (and apparantly others who have posted in the comment section as well), hence, I wrote a post stating such. Being a fan of Erykah Badu's music and live show does not mean that her lateness is not annoying and inconvenient. She was used as an example, however, and the post speaks to lateness in general. Implying that I am bitter and angry makes it seem that you are attacking my freedom to have a say as to what my expectations are as a consumer of her product and a concert-goer. I hope that is not what you're doing, and I just misunderstood your intent.
    For the record, I've worked with numerous artists who never give a less than stellar performance and show up on time. Lateness isn't a sign of a stellar performance. Being on time is what artists who value their public's attention make a point to do. It's called having a call time and honoring it. I've had dialogue with many emerging creatives on the subject of being an artist and being an artist who has a lifestyle that depends on the income of a fan base. When you create art and showcase it for others with the expectation that they will pay you in some or fashion, then you have made your art a business commodity. As un-sexy and unromantic as that sounds, it's the truth. As a fan of Erykah Badu the music artist, paying money for her by-products, whether it is music, concerts, magazines she may be in, etc., it is my right to have discernment when she displays behaviors that inconvenient me. I don't own her, but I am paying for the time and art product that she has put out for sale. That is the nature of this thing called show business. What is frightening to me is that there are some people, like yourself Chris, who appear to equate a consumer's critique of a business practice (performing late is a business) as a personal attack on an artist's art. Don't try to quell public discourse about the subject just because you disagree. The irony is that Erykah Badu as an artist is one of my favorite artists. I have all of her releases. I would love to see her live, but I don't trust that she would arrive on time or even at all, so I wouldn't invest in a concert (would go, of course, if tix were free). That's all.

  13. @ Chris ... u reading the same article? bitter? WTF?
    I agree 100% with what is being said here. As other commentators have pointed out this is an artists job. If I was continually late for my job I wouldn't have one, simple.
    I understand that there are sometimes very valid reasons for being late, and that is fine, but at least have the decency to 1) aknowledge your lateness and 2) apologise. And occasional lateness ... yeah fine. Repeated lateness ... no excuse.
    Some people travel to these concerts from way out of town. They will often have travel arrangements in place prior to showing up. It's all well and good extending a show past it's finish time, but not everyone can stay due to other commitments. If i pay for a 2 hour show, I want a 2 hour show.

  14. I've never been to a show that started on time...I just hope it starts within 30 minutes of when its supposed too.

  15. I can def see how being a parent would make this type of thing way more upsetting, but I also think some of it is almost like hurt feelings because we as fans invest so much into some artists that when they don't seem to care about us its like a slap in the face. The fans make the artists rich they should be decent enough to be on time. If shit happens as it does and you're late, simply apologize.

  16. I saw her at the Fox a while back and she was tardy for that performance as well. Still an awesome performance especially when the Roots opened but I could have done without the waiting!

  17. @yeosha: i was at that show. she killed it, even when she pulled out her exercise balls.
    i didn't make it to this past weekend's show. that venue (chastain) leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
    erykah's late. she's always late. i think i can deal with the lateness. true, it's unprofessional and yes, that's their job, but it's also the industry. it happens. what i DON'T like is when the artist doesn't apologize for it. maxwell was like 2 hours late last year at essence fest and the brotha, hot as he wanna be, strolled out on stage like everything was everything. naw, homie, everything ain't everything. you late. 2 hours late. how 'bout "i'm sorry"?
    my experiences with erykah and her late @ss go back to '02. she stopped in atlanta on her "frustrated artists" tour and was 1.5 late. she, too, came out like everything was everything. and i, too, was pissed. she made up for it though: she did an encore that lasted 1.5+ hours, during which she pirouetted and pliéd her way back into my good graces. but she was still late.
    i recently saw foreign exchange and they were every bit of 2 hours late. and it was standing room only (or mostly anyway). two hours. on my feet. in some not-suited-for-standing-that-long timbs. i was pissed. and disappointed. and annoyed 'cause the dj wouldn't even play some good music to take my mind off the fact that i had been waiting for 2 hours. AND i was doing the master cleanse, so i couldn't even get a drink to numb my nerves and aching feet. not good at all. and then they showed. started with "house of cards". and explained that one-half of the band had been stuck in south carolina. that's why they were late. and phonte apologized. and he stole my heart. then yahzarah sang. and stole my heart from phonte.
    the moral of this soliloquy? APOLOGIZE, dammit!!

  18. @Marques,
    You're my new favorite writer. Anyone who can engage a reader in a comment section and mention the Master Cleanse in the same write-up to illustrate a point is pure awesomeness. Well said.
    I'll be at the Anthony David concert tonight in DC with fingers crossed that he'll be on time. I love his music and want to bring you all back a great report.

  19. @moon; wow. thanks a lot. *blush*

  20. Can we give marques an award for his comments?

  21. I feel u moon. I was @ essence festival '09 and sat thru 2-3 hours of waiting for maxwell 2 show up 2 do his set..the would've ben much longer had the peeps from essence had not asked anita baker 2 do an encore..thurr were many rumors running round da superdome as 2 why max was running late..none of which i cared about..and win he finally showed up..thurr was no apology..which sealed his fate 4 me..i sat thru 30 min of his n left..and drowned my anger in some drink on bourbon street!!!!....btw....MARQUES STAY AWAY FROM PHONTE..OR MEET ME OUTSIDE!!!!

  22. A friend of mine went and he's still pissed. We both live in Atlanta and I called him a few weeks back to see if he wanted to double date to go see Kem, Anthony H., Raheim D. and Jahiem(not a fan). He said he'd never seen Erykah and he wanted to show some home town love. Well the brother spent a lot of money on tickets, dinner, drinks, parking, gas, and lost 20lbs sitting in the HOTAZZ Atlanta humidity waiting for Miss Thang to arrive. Repeating his statement, "I'll never buy another Badu album again! She makes me not want to go to another concert again."
    I'm not sure what Miss Thang was thinking, but I'm a single man in Atlanta. If I spend my hard earn money, taking one our beautiful Queens out for a night on the town. I'd be very dissappointed if I wasted so much money and time. I'm just glad I chose the Budweiser Superfest. Can't wait to hear Kem, "When I'm loving Yoooooooou".
    She really needs to do a free show here. People here are totally disappointed. This city has supported Erykah for years, and now it's like she's taken it for granted. I can assure you that she's lost some fans here. Times are hard and like you said, they don't want money and time wasted.
    Make ammends EB(Obviously it don't mean Early Bird)

  23. I was also at that show at the FOX. The big difference is the FOX is located in Downtown Atlanta. Chastain is in a residential neighborhood and those rich folks don't want ya behinds parked in front of they're houses after 11pm. Everyone knows that, so may next time she shouldn't do Chastain if she can't control time.
    Oh yeah the show at the FOX was H.O.T. Great performance. We were even surprised by a guest appearance by Miss Jill Scott. She sang a couple songs while the Roots played. Then she walked into the crowd signed some autographs and chilled with the regular people in the audience for a while. Now that's what I'm talking about. I hate my peeps got dissed at Chastain, but maybe the promoters will stress tardiness and include that in the contract when they perform at Chastain.

  24. LOL @ anon, if I had an award, he'd get it. He had me at "...pirouetted and pliéd".
    @hallwaysanguh & marques-- no fighting! LOL. You know, I have yet to see Phonte live since he became part of Foreign Exchange. I always hear good things about their shows.
    @Jay, very succinct and to the point. happy fan base = money
    @Stoneyisland, lol. I saw Mad Max for the first time in my life last month--isn't that crazy? You're right, the look is similar. But EB's mohawk is way more futuristic. I don't think we expected her to dye her hair blond neither. It's, if, anything, unexpected. I kinda dig it.
    @Phil4Real, your comment "...but maybe promoters will stress tardiness and include that in the contract when they perform" brings up a very insightful point. When an artist has a history of tardiness, when does a promoter make that a part of the contract-- like, start docking payment for each moment not on stage. I'd be curious to know if that happens with major acts.

  25. It's her own fans damn fault ... they think her counterculture outlook on everything is cute when she's nothing more than trifling. I bet you all don't find that "time is for white people" crap funny now, do you? SMH ... She needs to sit down somewhere.

  26. When I saw Erykah in Philly she was on time. When I saw her in Hawaii she was on time and went on before goapele. Maybe it was the venue that messed up.

  27. Over the past year I have witnessed artists like Badu, Mos Def and the Wu Tang being more than one hour late for their concerts in london (We booed heavily at Badu's concert). This is unacceptable and to be honest doesnt encourage me to support them anymore.
    They clearly do not care because it seems to happen everytime they're touring. We should stop being ecstatic and boycott the next time they come and perhaps they will realise they need to change their habits.
    The worst is when the Dj they use before the main act stays longer than the main act which is ludicrous. By the time the main act arrives on stage we are already too tired to enjoy it.

  28. Yes, tardiness is a problem for me. I attended a Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu concert in June. I'm not sure if Monae was late but Ms. Badu was something terrible type tardy. Thankfully, they did not turn the power off on her but the stage manager did not look happy when she would not get off stage. Frankly, I think it's unproffesional and disrespectful to to your fans.

  29. I attended the concert, and was extremely disappointed by the abrupt ending of the show. Ms. Badu has performed at Chastain Park before, so she knows they don't play that when it comes to their time restraints. It is one thing to be tardy, but she decided to start the show on her on time. She performed for an hour, and that was it........I love Ms. Badu, but I was highly pissed at the outcome of the show.

  30. I agree 100% with this article. A concert is a time, emotional, and financial investment. There are other things I could be doing with all three but I chose to attend a concert. Most of the time, these artists aren't just getting in from somewhere...they're chilling backstage.
    Making fans wait doesn't build anticipation. It makes my feet hurt!
    I hate it when someone comes on stage 40 mins before it's "show's over" time. Ridiculous.
    While it's not a replacement, Youtube clips are always on time and cheaper than an overpriced concert ticket.


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