Typically when you attend a concert, you might bring your cell phone, cash—maybe a sweater if it might get chilly. For a Rihanna concert, you’d be advised to pack a cooler, lantern, sleeping bag and a good book, because you might be waiting a while.
Rihanna, who performs at Mandalay Bay tonight, has a habit of running a bit late. In November 2011, she was an hour and five minutes late to appear at a show in London. On this most recent Diamonds World Tour, at a charity show in Chicago last month, she made high-school kids wait for four hours, then performed for 16 minutes. She reportedly was over an hour late in St. Paul, and two hours late in Montreal.
But Rihanna is not alone. Justin Bieber is notorious for the same antics—clocking in over two hours late for a recent show in London, where he was booed when he finally arrived; he did the same in Germany. Snoop Dogg famously arrived five hours tardy to a show in Norway last year, attributing the delay to his quest to find chicken wings. And those are just a few of the most egregious offenders.
There is somewhat of a built-in delay at concert venues, to keep ticketholders waiting so they’ll buy more beer and T-shirts. A certain amount of suspense before the lights go down and your favorite performer dramatically emerges is par for the course in the concert game.
But it’s getting out of hand. When an artist is a half-hour or 40 minutes late, it’s irritating, but not cause for outrage. When somebody is an hour to three hours late, it’s an insult.
Does Rihanna think her fans are such suckers that they’ll eagerly fork over hard-earned cash to be granted an audience with someone who clearly has contempt for them? Perhaps she looks out at the audience and sees a sea of faces, but not individual human beings. She may not see the parents who had to hire babysitters for their younger children so they could escort the older ones to her show, or folks that depend on public transportation and can’t afford to miss the last train home.
In a way, you can’t blame her. The old adage ‘caveat emptor,’ or ‘buyer beware,’ applies. If you know an artist has a chronic tardiness problem, and you buy a ticket anyway, what do you expect?
It’s no shocker that as performers get wealthier, their ability to sympathize with the average person can wane. But when the gulf between artist and fan becomes so vast that fans feel they are being treated like dirt, the appeal of the experience fades. Fast.
Rihanna and others like her would be wise to listen when fans grumble over tardiness. Most people understand the difference between missing the alarm and being a few minutes late to work, and showing utter disdain for an audience by causing intolerable delays. They know the former so well because most of them have to wake up and get to work on time so they can earn money to buy concert tickets.