Sunday night’s sold-out show at the Enterprise Center by comedy titans Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock left an indelible mark on St. Louis, but it wasn’t all laughs.
For Tad Berry of Kirkwood, it was a big, fun family night until it wasn’t.
At the end of the evening, he was only “a disappointment. pure disappointment.” He came into the show expecting a certain level of chaos, but he got so much more.
“My circumstances prevented me from enjoying the show at all,” says Berry, a tax consultant.
NewsTalkSTL radio personality Julia Gordon-Brammer says the evening was a fiasco. “I felt cheated. I felt like the whole night was a trick.”
Mark Jefferson, a personal trainer from St. Louis, said he heard complaints from fellow fans, but he thought the show was great.
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Announced in early January, the co-headlining show, produced by Live Nation, came as a surprise and was considered a great achievement for St. Louis.
It was Chappelle’s first show here since a sold-out four-night residency at Pageant in 2014. Rock played two sold-out shows at the Stifel Theater in June.
So what happened on Sunday besides the comedians’ raunchy, insightful and profane material, which included Rock addressing the famous Will Smith slapstick and Chappelle dragging a St. Louis music icon?
For starters, audience phones and smartwatches were sealed in bags after their tickets were scanned. Customers kept the bags with them and could access their devices in designated areas on the platform levels.
It’s an increasingly common practice especially at comedy shows, but also at some concerts. Comedians don’t want their material to be filmed and published, thereby ruining their jokes.
Rock’s shows at the Stifel Theater last year, as well as Kevin Hart’s 2022 show at the Enterprise Center and Louis CK’s show this month at the Factory, were all phone-free experiences.
Since customers couldn’t access their e-tickets, staff members wrote down their seats by hand. Check-in lines stretched up to three blocks outside the area, and there were three separate check-in points, as usual.
The show started late. DJ Trauma spun hip-hop beats before opening acts Donnell Rawlings and Rick Ingram performed 15-minute sets, followed by an hour-plus set from Rock. (He reportedly went on longer than intended.) Next came DJ Trauma and Ingram’s second set, which seemed like an obvious intermission before Chappelle took the stage shortly after 11 p.m.
At the end of her set, Chappelle explained that a mechanical problem with her plane caused her delay, and for a while she wasn’t even sure the show would happen. He finished his set around midnight.
After the show, patrons had to find workers outside to disconnect the phone bags. Some customers took the bags home and cut their phones themselves.
Berry and her family arrived for the 7:30pm show and waited in line for 40 minutes.
“I had a babysitter,” she says, “I had to go to the phone area a few times and tell her this was going to be late. The biggest disappointment was that it wasn’t announced that the show was going to start late and be as late as it was. If we were told earlier that it was delayed, I could have worked with it to some extent.”
Berry and her family exited the show within minutes of Chappelle taking the stage.
He contacted Ticketmaster and asked for a partial refund because he had paid to see two headlines and only saw one. Ticketmaster’s response, he says the event has taken place, so no refunds.
“I would appreciate a partial refund,” he says. “It was unfair to do this to us.”
Representatives for the Enterprise Center and Live Nation did not return requests for comment.
NewsTalkSTL’s Gordon-Brammer arrived at 6:45 p.m. and says getting into the place was “kind of scary. It wasn’t really a line. It was a crowd.”
He acknowledges the lack of workers seen everywhere and says it seemed to be the case at the Enterprise Center. He says he’s also seen patrons line up.
“I think Dave’s a genius,” he says, “I’d like him to be seen. But we live in the county. It drives. It takes time to get home. We felt cheated.”
Other audience members reported more pleasant experiences.
Aside from some repeat material from Rock’s 2022 Stiefel Theater shows, Raquel Wallace says she enjoyed the show. His entry was relatively easy, and he learned late in the evening from the concessions workers that Chappelle had not yet arrived, so he was prepared for a delay.
Sharee “Mocha Latte” Galvin, a community advocate in St. Louis, said it was a great show. But seeing the crowd of people outside the hall waiting to get in was “anxiety-inducing and stressful.”
When he arrived at 7:10 p.m., “there were lines on both sides of the building and in the middle of the street like I’ve never seen before,” he says. “Actually, it was terrible. I was thinking. “I hope nothing happens.” I felt they needed more staff.”
He also says customers were walking in without their phones being locked. She was glad Chappelle explained why she was late.
“I’m glad they didn’t tell us earlier in the evening,” he says, “it would have caused chaos.”
But by the end of the night, Galvin says, he felt nothing but confusion.
“I felt like we were being kicked out of the building to find someone to turn off (phone bags),” he says. “They didn’t have bright clothes or anything.”
Jefferson, the personal trainer, said he saw only three or four employees switching off bags outside after the show.
“They were rioting,” he says. “There should be a (master) button where it can be opened.”
All in all, he says he had a good time and the comedy was both funny and outrageous.
“I got what I came for,” he says.
Saw @DaveChappelle and: @chrisrock: It’s worth standing outside in stiletto heels for 45 minutes to see. I appreciate that Dave apologized for being late, even though I didn’t care. My husband’s birthday is over and seeing these two in person was a dream come true.
— Just Live Black Woman (@J4dedBlu) January 23, 2023
I felt cheated @Enterprise_Cntr #STL: the night before. Waited cold hour + because of phone check, ppl cutting lines. 3 openers. #ChrisRock didn’t go on until 9:30 (fantastic) #DaveChappelle took the stage at 11:05pm on Sunday. A fight broke out in my department, the police came. Huge deviation 1/2
— Julia Gordon-Bramer (@JGordonBramer) January 23, 2023
although they should have taken my phone. Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock were great.
— MK$ 🇸🇳 (@mariemeee___) January 24, 2023
Best comedy show last night. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle 😤 Had to wait in line for about 45 minutes to get in but loved the idea of it being phone free. Two of my favorite comedians and they brought Ash Larry to open. I was rolling. Glad they came to town pic.twitter.com/Os2a1Uh9hk
— Marshall (@Saukboy02) January 22, 2023
Tonight I went to the chapel and Chris rock. It was supposed to end at 1030. Dave Chappelle took the stage before 11pm. Tomorrow will be hard. The show was kind of fun but pretty shocking. Not worth going out before 1230 on a weeknight.
— Parody Snackkapova (@snackquille) January 23, 2023
The Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock show was a good time…more than worth it
— Metal 3 (@IIIRufusIII) January 23, 2023
Chris Rock @chrisrock: and Dave Chappelle last night. Great show and worth the wait for Chappelle to get to the show. Both were great, if you ever get to see them live, do yourself a favor and do it. #stl: #wrestling #wrestler #Entrepreneurship Center #comedy #wallcomedy pic.twitter.com/h6m5nfW8ob
— Ace Roberts (@AceRoberts) January 23, 2023