Prince fans demand refunds after first Purple After Jam at House of Blues
On Monday night, Prince sowed discontent closing the first of three United Center concerts this week with a very belated third encore. But it wouldn't be the last time in a matter of hours fans felt manipulated—even deceived—by the unpredictable artist.
Early Tuesday morning's Purple After Jam at the House of Blues, the first of a trio, ended with disappointed fans angrily yelling "We've been had!" and "We want refunds!" Prince did not perform at the show, and at least a few people tried to get their money back from House of Blues staff. Attendees whose expectations were inflated by $75 ticket prices and a patience-testing wait of several hours didn't hear a single note of live music until around 3am. Prince protege and backup singer Andy Allo, beset by some early microphone feedback, performed several bouncy songs with the New Power Generation. Then, just after 3:30am, she said goodnight and the club's patchwork curtain closed to the audible bewilderment of those in attendance.
Fans who had heard about Prince's earlier sleight of hand at the Madhouse on Madison held out hope that this was just another trick up his silky sleeve. Chants of "We want Prince!" surged and died down. As the club's scheduled 4am closing time neared, Allo appeared from behind the curtain with an announcement: "We'd play all night if we could," she said, but the show could not go on. The crowd thinned, yet a large number of true believers kept hope alive. "Let's start a riot," one disgruntled fan joked. "There's enough of us."
A few minutes later came a report from the man himself: "Chicago—this is Prince," he spake Oz-like from behind the stage's curtain. He parted the drape and came out to face his downcast devotees. (He was, of course, shielded by dark sunglasses.) He took the opportunity to complain about how the sound had been run at the House of Blues, implying he could've done a better job if he could "be in two places at once." "Hopefully tomorrow night will be a different story," he said. Prince also blamed Chicago police, who he claimed were shutting down the show. "If you want me to stay," he said, "talk to them."
That may have been some shrewd blame shifting. The CPD's order to vacate the premises seemed reasonable seeing as it was given mere minutes before the predetermined 4am close. "The House of Blues is going to get about $10,000 in tickets tonight," one of the responding officers told me.
The air outside felt warm after a cold shoulder. "Prince is one mercurial motherfucker," said a man in the stream of crestfallen fans heading into the early morning darkness. Perhaps this is what it sounds like when doves cry.