Rarely if ever has the word “disappointing” been associated with the name Anita Baker. Yet it does occur, as proven on Wednesday, May 10, as even the most ardent fans of the artist came away with that feeling upon exiting Newark’s Prudential Center.
News about the ongoings in the venue started to grow from a loud murmur inside the house to becoming a news item of national proportions. It began when fans who adhered to the 7:00 p.m. time that was on the ticket wandered about the lobby for roughly a half-hour before being able to go to their seats, where we sat for another roughly 80 minutes awaiting the supporting act, Babyface, for at least an hour after an announcement.
Observant watchers noticed the instruments slowly being removed until we got the official word. A brother named Jay, from the venue or Live Nation, the concert promoters, stepped out and said, “First of all, I want to thank everyone for coming out tonight. We did have some technical difficulties tonight. However, Ms. Baker isn’t going anywhere, ya’ll. She’s coming out tonight. Unfortunately, because of these delays, Ms. Baker wanted to be sure that she gave ya’ll the best that she could give.”
Wait, here it comes: “Unfortunately, Babyface will no longer be performing. I deeply, deeply apologize.”
Babyface took to social media with a message for his supporters,saying, “I am truly sorry to my fans who have been waiting for us to hit the stage this evening at the Prudential Center. I was asked not to perform in order to give Ms. Baker her space and time to perform her show in its entirety. My band and I are extremely saddened we didn’t get to perform for y’all tonight.”
He later in the week added more clarity with, “As advanced as technology is today, we are sometimes at its mercy. The video wall was unfortunately not working that day, and time wasn’t on our side. I am incredibly sorry to the fans and have nothing but love and respect for Anita. I am very much looking forward to continuing our tour together.”
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Anita herself added to the timeline by adding her take. “The TECH/Video Wall/Glitched,” she tweeted Thursday. “Caused a Delay. Live Nation/Producers took responsibility…I/We/Us went Onstage, anyway. Late…but Love PREVAILED.”
Admittedly once the band hit and she grabbed the mic, the mood changed for the better for the duration of her set, minus a few miscues with the soundman. As the thousands of patrons filed out, though, you can hear the rumbles of refund requests, because that ticket was a pretty penny and fans didn’t get their full value. The Twitterverse spotted an ally for the audience in another powerhouse vocalist as Stephanie Mills opined, “We have got to be better than this! I am saddened by the fact that you have to make this statement. One would think as older artists who are considered “Iconic” and/or “Legendary,” we would treat each other with respect and dignity. @Babyface We can tour together.”
The “day ones” of Baker had another bone of contention for the night: Those were the fans mentioned in the opening sentence who bought their seats pre-sale, before the whole tour package was revealed. They were sold on the prospect of celebrating Baker’s 40 years as a music icon in the industry since the release of her debut album, “The Songstress,” was released in 1983. These dates were to mark the first time she has been on a full tour since 1995 and the first time “The Songstress” would be performing her classic hits live since winning back the rights to her masters.
Maybe we misinterpreted what was going on and had way too high expectations. We went in thinking that while requesting a song from her days as a member of the group Chapter 8 would be a big ask, we did feel that for all the times we had to scream, “Caught Up in the Rapture” was a sophomore album. As great as it was, it fell a little short of what the debut album brought to the table; this was our night. That gem of an album was getting the live shine it so richly deserves! Nope, we got one joint! One joint!
Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. C’est la vie. Over and out, y’all. Holla next week. ’Til then, enjoy the nightlife.