A Christmas concert with Patti LaBelle at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater came to a sudden and shocking end Saturday night, after a bomb threat forced the R&B legend to leave the stage mid-show and the near-capacity audience to evacuate the theater.
“Regarding the bomb threat in the 100 block of W. Wisconsin, all patrons have been safely evacuated,” Milwaukee Police Capt. Warren E. Allen Jr. said in an email statement Saturday night around 10:30 p.m. “Police are clearing the facility at this time. The investigation is fluid and ongoing.”
In an additional statement issued at 1:13 a.m. Sunday, Allen wrote: “The building was searched by K9 units. No explosive devices were discovered. There is no threat to the public at this time.”
Video taken from the Riverside Saturday shows the 78-year-old LaBelle chatting with an audience member who was celebrating her 70th birthday, and receiving a bouquet of flowers from another fan in the front row, when two men, seemingly her security personnel, briskly walked up to LaBelle at the microphone.
“Wait,” LaBelle cried out as she was swiftly escorted off the stage by the two men.
Catherine Brunson, who was at Saturday’s show, told the Journal Sentinel that the evacuation happened barely two songs into LaBelle’s performance, around 9:24 p.m. She estimated the theater was near full capacity. It seats about 2,500 people.
“Somebody got on a microphone and said we have to evacuate the building because there was a bomb threat,” said Brunson, who documented the evacuation on Facebook Live. “We came out and police had the block taped off. … A whole lot of people were pretty upset. … It’s scary.”
“It happened so quickly,” Scott Pierce, who also attended Saturday’s show, messaged to the Journal Sentinel. “Everybody very calmly exited the theater in a disbelieving manner. I heard lots of comments about how sad it was that someone would pull such a pathetic stunt.””Before the incident the crowd was really enjoying Patti,” Pierce added. “Just sad that someone does this.”
As of early Sunday, none of LaBelle’s social media pages posted a statement related to the evacuation. The Journal Sentinel sent a message to LaBelle’s Instagram account and has yet to hear back.
In a statement, Riverside Theater operator the Pabst Theater Group said the show was postponed.
“We are thankful for the efforts of the Milwaukee Police Department and our customers and staff for their safe and orderly exit,” according to the statement. “We are working with the artist to reschedule the show.”
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Update on Youtube Patti LaBelle, concertgoers evacuated due to bomb threat at Milwaukee venue
Milwaukee police say everyone was evacuated safely, but some expressed confusion and concern about what was going on.