R. Kelly stages performance amid protests

With demonstrators standing outside his concert protesting his presence, R. Kelly summoned his passionate fans to carry him through what has been a difficult week.

Interspersing religious references with his suggestive lyrics and salty language, Kelly stirred up a crowd inside the Greensboro Coliseum to buoy him as he encountered long-standing allegations of mistreatment of women and an effort to get coliseum officials to cancel the concert.

“Sometimes, some storms ain’t gonna stop,” Kelly told the audience during his nearly one-hour performance. “As long as my fans are calling for me, I’m gonna be on that stage, singing these songs.”

Well after his performance, however, the storms that started before he arrived continued to roil.

Women’s groups had urged the Greensboro Coliseum to cancel, days after Kelly was disinvited from a concert in Chicago. Spotify announced it would no longer stream his music in its curated playlists.

Although it didn’t announce the move, Apple’s music-streaming service also has stopped promoting Kelly’s music on some of the featured playlists that it shows its 40 million subscribers. Like Spotify, Apple Music still carries an extensive selection of Kelly’s songs in its library.

Apple declined to further comment Saturday.

Pandora also declined to discuss how it is now treating Kelly’s music in its curated playlists, but said it has decided not to promote “artists with certain demonstrable behavioural, ethical or criminal issues. We approach each of these scenarios on a case-by-case basis.”

But before the latest moves, Kelly took the stage, inviting some audience members to join him. Stage hands also passed out T-shirts that read “Turn Up R. Kelly.”

Kelly said he was approached backstage to tone down his songs and language because there were families in attendance.

“Let me ask y’all something,” he said to the crowd. “Can I do my show tonight?”

Kelly denies abusing anyone and faces no current criminal charges, and his fans weren’t giving up on their R&B superstar.

The Greensboro concert was among the R&B singer’s first performances since the #MuteRKelly movement accelerated boycott efforts in recent weeks, with help from the Time’s Up campaign against sexual harassment and assault.

Protesters stood on the sidewalk outside the Greensboro Coliseum and criticised arena officials for declining to meet with a coalition of women’s groups that signed a letter citing a “long term history of sexual misconduct” by Kelly.