An R. Kelly concert scheduled to open the inaugural Fashion Meets Music Festival next month at Nationwide Arena has been canceled because of backlash over the R&B singer’s past.
“We wanted to make sure we heard the Columbus listeners … to make a statement and support the city we live in,” said festival spokeswoman Melissa Dickson, who added that a public-relations firm is helping the event repair its image.
The decision to pull Kelly’s Nationwide show on Aug. 29 came late last week after Saintseneca, a Columbus band also set to play the festival, announced plans to cancel because of Kelly’s appearance. WCBE (90.5 FM) withdrew its sponsorship shortly after.
Those departures were preceded by a local duo, Damn the Witch Siren, which on July 3 abandoned their festival appearance because of Kelly’s history, which includes a 2008 acquittal on 14 counts of child pornography and a Chicago Sun-Times investigation linking the Grammy winner to underage girls.
Still, the 47-year-old I Believe I Can Fly singer hasn’t been short on work: He headlined the Bonnaroo (Manchester, Tenn.) and Pitchfork (Chicago) festivals last summer.
Organizers of the Fashion Meets Music Festival, which is to take place in and around the Arena District on Aug. 29-31, issued a brief announcement last night via Facebook and Twitter to say the artist and event have “parted ways.”
Kelly’s publicist released the following statement: “R. Kelly is sorry to disappoint his fans but looks forward to seeing them in the near future during one of his upcoming tours.”
The remaining festival events and after-party shows will take place as scheduled in locations such as McFerson Commons. Performers include O.A.R., Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child and Future Islands.
There won’t be a replacement concert in the arena.