Have you ever discovered that you’ve been angry at the wrong person all these years?
What do you then do upon discovering that the object of your misdirected wrath is dead – so you can’t even apologize?
Even when he was alive, it’s unlikely that soul singer supreme Luther Vandross lost any sleep over the fact that I was angry at him, but three decades later, it appears he may not have been the bad boy in that particular contretemps.
True, there’s no forgiving him for that desultory remake of the Temptations’ “Since I Lost My Baby,” but this other thing? Maybe.
Here’s what happened: Around 1983 or ’84, before Vandross became just “Lutha,” he performed in Winston-Salem at an outdoor venue.
On the night of the show, in the words of that old Negro spiritual, “Lawd, didn’t it rain?”
After futile, progressively angrier trips to the ticket window to get refunds, many in the once-festive, now-soggy crowd left.
As a poor but mostly honest newspaper publisher who’d splurged and treated myself to a night out of town and temporarily out of the reach of bill collectors and angry readers, there was no way I was leaving without seeing a show – soggy ground be danged.
At around 11:30 p.m., Luther arrived from his undoubtedly dry and luxurious hotel suite, did a few contractually obligated “woo woo woos” for the remaining sparse crowd and left the stage.
Talking with officials at Raleigh’s PNC Arena last week after another bad-weather concert makes one think that perhaps villainizing Vandross in that affair wasn’t fair.
Even though some areas of the Triangle were experiencing whiteout conditions last Wednesday evening, PNC’s officials refused to refund a farthing or to cancel that night’s concert featuring soul singers Kem, Joe and Charlie Wilson. The snow had stopped falling heavily, but temperatures went below freezing, meaning that even if intrepid fans were able to make it to the arena, they’d have to negotiate the even more treacherous frozen roads to get home later that night.
And y’all wonder why some of us – we know who we are – wait until 15 minutes before a show to buy our tickets.
Those of you who are angry at Kem, Joe and Charlie Wilson – as I was at Luther – for proceeding with their scheduled concert despite dangerous weather perhaps should redirect your ire elsewhere. But where?
“Obviously, we don’t own the show,” Larry Perkins, assistant general manager at PNC, told me Friday when I asked why the show wasn’t canceled or dinero refunded. “We’re the bricks and mortar. The promoter owns the show and basically it’s their decision” whether or not the show should go on.
If the performers are already in town, he said, then the show is a go.
“Charlie Wilson got here yesterday,” an arena employee had told me earlier Wednesday when I called as a customer to see if they were issuing refunds. When I asked if I could get my money back and promised not to tell anyone else if I did, she responded, “The performers have to be paid.”
Sure, but at what cost?
Did I mention the conditions two hours before the show while I was trying to decide whether to hazard a trip? Snow was coming down sideways and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, which, as a thrill, is overrated anyway.
Perkins, of the PNC Arena, saw something different. “Oh, that fast-moving flurry?” he said when asked whether the weather caused a thought of cancellation. “It came through really quick and it didn’t stick. ... The lots and roads had been cleared, and the show went on.”
Perkins said the governor had already rescinded his order about “staying off the roads” and that temperatures Wednesday reached 38 degrees. They did: at noon. By 6 p.m., an hour before the show was scheduled to start, though, it was 28 degrees and plunging.
Calls to the Durham Performing Arts Center for information on its cancellation policy were not returned, but last February, when snow prevented thousands of ticket holders from getting to the center to see “The Book of Mormon” musical, the DPAC capitulated and reluctantly provided refunds or tickets to the following year’s performance.
That was classy, even if done under duress.
It would’ve also been classy had the promoter or headliners told PNC Arena officials to cancel the show last week so none of their fans would risk their health or lives to get what they’d paid for.
It would’ve also been good business: Studies show that people tend to buy more tickets when they aren’t in traction.