Saturday night R Kelly's Single Ladies Tour hit Constitution Hall in D.C., and of course I went. What follows is a (mostly) chronological rundown, cobbled together with notes from my phone, transcriptions from video, Instagrams from the Single Ladies Tour, and most of all, indelible memories. Without further ado...
1. Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" gives way to a 30 second countdown from the PA announcer. Then lights go up, and the PA Announcer says, "Please rise for the singing of the Single Ladies National Anthem".
2. Curtains open, and he is wearing a white suit with a white leather jacket. The sleeve of his white leather jacket is illuminated with flashing letters spelling out "SINGLE".
3. Are you feelin' single?
4. Kellz clarifies that the tour was designed to give love to single ladies, but it's for everyone. Because if you're not loving right, you'll be single soon enough.
5. There are two bars on opposite sides of the stage with bartenders in white tuxedos. Kellz invites a handful of female fans to hang out and drink at both bars. Then a few songs in, the music stops.
6. R Kelly: (singing) "I cannnn't! ... I wooooon't! ... I refuse to do this show unless I know all the real R Kelly fans are up in this motherf***er!"
7. He runs through another 10 or 15 hits. Then: "Tonight I'm gonna pull a switch-er-ooo, do you mind if I strip for you?" This song:
8. The music stops again. R Kelly (singing): "Can I get a towel to wipe my faaaaace? Cause I'm sweaty like a motherf***er, sweaty like a motherf***er."
9. R Kelly gets a towel, lets front row fans wipe his face.
10. "Now give me my motherf***in towel back." He walks back to the center of the stage, singing "Now I'm gonna take my tiiiiiiime and wipe myself." R Kelly wipes his crotch with a towel. The crowd goes insane. We're all getting pregnant tonight.
11. I don't see nothinnnnnnnn wronnnnnnnnnng.
12. An interlude. (singing) "Who got that gooooood sex? Who got that bommmmmb sex? Is it you? Is it you? Baby can you prove it to me?" He leans down to a fan in the front row. She whispers into his ear.
13. R Kelly stands up shocked. "FOR REAL? ... Baby girl I'm R Kelly and I ain't never heard no s**t like that. (crowd goes insane, Kellz laughs) You're gonna f**k around and get me pregnant with shit like that."
14. R Kelly calls backstage. Two guys dressed in all white bring out what can only be described as a throne. R Kelly performs in said throne for 90 seconds, then calls the guys back to bring away the throne.
15. Intermission. The lights go dark. R Kelly's voice whispers over the loudspeakers. "I'm in the audience, and I'm sittin right next to you." This is when I start recording audio.
16. "Do you see me? 26 years you been listenin to my music. 26 years you been watchin me. Coming to your city, doing all these shows. And girl you don't even recognize me? Look around. Look around right now. See me? ... How bout now? ... I see YOU. ... Damn, do anybody see me? Do anybody recognize me? It's Kellz, y'all. I'm right.....here. I'm right here, right here, right beside you. Don't front actin like you don't see me. I'm in the row sittin right next to you. I'm to ya left, I'm to ya right, I'm in back of you, I'm in front of you. Girl I need you to feel me so close, so open ya eyes, close ya eyes, open ya eyes. I know you, you know me, you made my love to my music. I'm in the audience. All these years I've fed you this good music, and now I'm hungry. Can you feed me now? If so, I'm in the audience. (chanting) Search for me, find me. Search for me, find me. Search for me, find me..."
17. The lights come back, R Kelly is in the crowd. There is a cage on the stage now.
18. R Kelly brings a female fan onstage, and the crowd waits while she signs a waiver. Then she enters the cage with R Kelly, a white sheet drops over them. I turn to the 45 year-old woman next to me, and say, "OH SHIT." We both burst out laughing.
19. I have written down in my phone: "I think R Kelly is having sex with someone in a cage on stage?" Important photo:
20. The lights come back, the woman exits the cage and staggers off stage. Even though nothing actually happened, she is pregnant now. We are all pregnant now.
21. He performs "Feelin on your booty" and extends the final "Booty" for exactly 30 seconds. Boo-oooooooooooo-tyyyyyyyyyyyyy. For 30 seconds. Next breath, "Now I'm gonna get into some opera."
22. Kellz runs through a pitch-perfect opera song for three minutes.
23. "At this part of the show we're gonna play a game called, KELLZ KARAOKE. Bring out the mics, bring out the mics." Eight microphones appear on stage facing the crowd. "When you hear my songs, I want you to sing 'em loud as you can while I sit at this bar and have a drink. I deserve it. Y'ALL READY?" I hope this concert never ends.
24. NOTE: Never forget that this song exists:
25. NOTE: When a woman's fed up. The realest talk.
26. Things wind down with "I Wish", and Kellz adds, "I wish I could sing these songs and touch your heart forever. I wish we could stop the wars and stop the violence. I wish when I tell my kids to put down the computer and video games they would listen just once. I wish the best for Obama." R Kelly is the greatest.
27. He ends with an extended version of "I Believe I Can Fly", then brings fans on stage to dance to "Step in The Name of Love" as the lights go on and fans file out. As we leave Constitution Hall in the shadow of the White House, my friend says, "I came here thinking R Kelly is funny, I left realizing he's an institution." He's in front of you, he's in back of you. He's right here. He's everywhere. It's Kellz, y'all.
Now, go forth and step in the name of love.
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