Gas Monkey Live, Dallas
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Last night when the curtain dropped and the spotlight hit R&B icon R. Kelly, he was wearing sunglasses and a Chicago Bulls hat and holding a cigar. He was surrounded by a DJ; security guards; members of the opening act, June’s Diary; three life-size puppets; and a stagehand holding open a jeweled case with Kelly’s microphone inside.
It was a theatrical entrance befitting of a man who’s spent the better part of his nearly 30-year career performing in arenas across the country. But at half-empty Gas Monkey, a venue with a capacity of 1,200, it felt like a bit much. The low turnout may have been a result of the bad weather; or perhaps the show lost steam after the original date, Valentine’s Day, was canceled.
One thing that probably wasn’t a factor? Kelly’s history of child pornography and underage sex predation charges (he was found not guilty in 2008). Since the early 2000s, he’s been a polarizing figure but his music — often very sexual in its themes — has continued to sell well despite his reluctance to address the topic.
The fans near the stage were hysterical when the 50-year-old crooner made his entrance. For them, his past wasn’t a concern. Kelly instantly capitalized on that energy, running through a lightning quick mix of his hits “Go Getta,” “That’s That Shit,” “Snake” and “Thoia Thoing.”
“Those allegations don’t bother me. Michael Jackson had a past but Michael Jackson still did his thing,” said Victor Taylor, a fan of R. Kelly since his debut album. “I don’t worry about that kind of stuff. If you’re producing good music I fuck with you, and he puts on one hell of a show.”
That much is true. R. Kelly’s voice was as smooth as ever and he had no trouble hitting every note throughout his 90-minute set. “Do I look like the kind of motherfucker who’s gonna deliver a show at 0? I can’t turn it down, I’m a grown-ass man!” Kelly exclaimed. Then, after giving churchgoers an opportunity to leave, he jumped into “Bump N Grind.”
From there Kelly performed most songs in their entirety, including “Ignition,” “Fiesta,” “Down Low,” “Feelin On Yo Booty” and “12 Play.” The half-empty venue meant plenty of floor space for dancing and grinding.
At one point, Kelly asked a fan to wipe the sweat off his face with a towel. When he found the right girl he asked to her wipe his cheek, nose, forehead, lips, tongue and eventually his genitals, which she aggressively obliged, drawing a roar from the crowd. It was an unsurprising but nevertheless stunning antic from the singer. The crowd appeared to love it.
The legal troubles Kelly has faced don't appear to have changed him at all. He’s still one of the best-selling musicians of all time with over 30 million records sold, and he’s still a creep.