Sunday night’s sold-out show by comedy titans Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock at the Enterprise Center left an indelible mark on St. Louis, but it wasn’t laughing at everyone.
For Tad Berry of Kirkwood, it was a big, fun family night — until it wasn’t.
By the end of the evening, all he felt was “frustration — pure frustration.” He went into the show expecting a certain level of mayhem, but he got a lot more.
“My circumstances didn’t allow me to enjoy the show at all,” says Berry, a tax consultant.
NewsTalkSTL radio personality Julia Gordon-Bramer says the evening was a failure. “I felt tricked. I felt like the whole night was some kind of trick.”
Mark Jefferson, a personal trainer from St. Louis, says he’s heard complaints from other fans, but he thought the show was great.
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The co-headlining show, announced in early January and produced by Live Nation, came as a surprise and was considered a big get for St. Louis.
It was Chappelle’s first show here since a sold-out four-night stint at the Pageant in 2014. Rock performed two sold-out shows in June at the Stifel Theatre.
So what happened on Sunday — aside from the comedians’ edgy, insightful and profane material that included Rock addressing the famous Will Smith slap and Chappelle pulling a certain St. Louis music icon?
Initially, audience members’ phones and smartwatches were locked in bags after their tickets were scanned. Patrons carried the bags with them and could access their devices in designated areas on the concourse levels.
It is an increasingly common practice at comedy shows, especially but also at some concerts. Comedians don’t want their material to be filmed and shared publicly, ruining their jokes.
Rock’s shows last year at the Stifel Theater, 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 patrons could not access their electronic tickets, staff manually wrote down seat locations for them. Lines for entry stretched up to three blocks outside the venue, and there were three separate entry 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. (It’s believed he went longer than planned.) DJ Trauma and another set from Ingram came next, in what looked like obvious stalling, before Chappelle took the stage just after 1 p.m.
Towards the end of his set, Chappelle explained that a mechanical problem with his plane caused his delay, and for a while he wasn’t even sure the show would happen. He finished his set around midnight.
After the show, patrons had to find employees outside to disable the phone bags. Some patrons took the bags home and cut out their phones themselves.
Berry and his family arrived at 19.00 for the show at 19.30 and waited in line for 40 minutes.
“I had a babysitter,” he says. “I had to go to the phone area a few times and tell her it was too late. The biggest frustration was that it wasn’t announced that the show would start late and run as late as it did. If they told us earlier that it had been delayed, I could have worked with it to some extent.”
Berry and his family ended up leaving the show a few minutes after Chappelle was on stage.
He contacted Ticketmaster and requested a partial refund as he paid to see two headliners and only saw one. Ticketmaster’s response, he says, was that the event took place, so no refund.
“I would appreciate a partial refund,” he says. “It was unfair to do that to us.”
Representatives from the Enterprise Center and Live Nation did not respond to requests for comment.
Gordon-Bramer of NewsTalkSTL arrived at 18.45 and says that entering the place “was a bit scary. It wasn’t really a dash. It was a mob.”
She acknowledges that the lack of workers is seen everywhere and says that seemed to be the case at the Enterprise Center. She says that she also saw patrons cut in line.
“I think Dave is a genius,” she says. “I would have loved to have seen him. But we live in the county. It’s a drive. It takes time to get home. We felt cheated.” She left the show early during Chappelle’s set.
Other listeners reported more pleasant experiences.
Aside from some repeat material from Rock’s 2022 shows at the Stifel Theatre, Raqelle Wallace says she loved the show. Her entry was relatively easy, and she learned from a concession employee late in the evening that Chappelle hadn’t arrived yet, so she was prepared for the delay.
Sharee “Mocha Latte” Galvin, a community advocate in St. Louis, says it was a great show. But seeing the crowd of people outside the venue waiting to get in was “anxiety-inducing and stressful.”
When she arrived at 19.10, “there were lines that I have never seen before on both sides of the building and in the middle of the street,” she says. “It was actually scary. I thought, ‘I just hope nothing happens.’ I felt they needed more staff.”
She also says that guests entered without their phones being locked. She was glad Chappelle explained why he was late.
“I’m glad they didn’t tell us earlier in the evening,” she says. “It would have caused chaos.”
But at the end of the night, Galvin says, she felt nothing but confusion.
“I felt like we were being put out of the building to find someone to disable (the phone bags),” she says. “They weren’t wearing bright clothes or anything.”
Jefferson, the personal trainer, says he only saw three or four staffers deactivating bags outside after the show.
“They were getting swarmed,” he says. “There should be a (master) button where it can be unlocked.”
All in all, he says, he had a good time, and the comedy was both funny and creepy.
“I got what I came for,” he says.
So V @DaveChappelle and @chrisrock Def worth standing outside for 45 minutes in pencil heels to see. I appreciate Dave apologizing for being late, even though I didn’t care. My husband’s birthday is over and it was a dream to see these two in person.
— Just a Black Woman Living (@J4dedBlu) 23 January 2023
Felt cheated @Enterprise_Cntr #STL last night. Waited cold hours+ due to phone check, ppl cutting lines. 3 openers. #ChrisRock didn’t leave until 9:30 (awesome) #DaveChappelle train stage 11:05 on a Sunday evening! A fight broke out in my section, the police came. Huge Distraction 1/2
— Julia Gordon-Bramer (@JGordonBramer) 23 January 2023
even if they had to take my phone. Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock were cool!
— MK$ 🇸🇳 (@mariemeee___) 24 January 2023
Best comedy show ever last night. Chris Rock & Dave Chappelle 😤Had to wait about 45 minutes in line to get in but I loved the idea of it being phone free!! Two of my favorite comedians and they brought Ashy Larry to open up. I was rolling lol. Glad they came to town pic.twitter.com/Os2a1Uh9hk
— Marshal (@Saukboy02) 22 January 2023
I went to chappelle and chris rock tonight. It was supposed to end at 10.30 am. Dave chappelle first came to the arena at 23.00. Tomorrow will be tough. The show was kind of funny, but pretty creepy. Not worth being out before 1230 on a working night.
— Parodi Snackapova (@snackquille) 23 January 2023
The Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock show was a good ass time.. was more than worth it
— Metal 3 (@IIIRufusIII) 23 January 2023
Chris Rock @chrisrock and Dave Chappelle last night! Great show and worth the wait for Chappelle to come to the show. Both were amazing, if you ever get to see them live, do yourself a favor and do it! #size #prowrestling #breaks #EnterpriseCenter #comedy #stand up comedy pic.twitter.com/h6m5nfW8ob
— Ace Roberts (@AceRoberts) 23 January 2023