Shortly after Patti LaBelle started her concert in Milwaukee last Saturday (December 10), the R&B icon was rushed offstage, and her venue – the 2,500-capacity Riverside Theater – was evacuated due to a bomb threat.
The “godmother of soul” had performed just four songs when, midway through a speech, she was approached by several men in suits (assumed to be security guards) and hurriedly escorted off the stage.
According to the local arm of the Journal Sentinel, the incident occurred sometime around 9:30pm. LaBelle had just received a bouquet of flowers from a fan in the front row, and had paused the set to celebrate another fan’s 70th birthday. She appeared shocked by the sudden crisis, anxiously yelling out “wait” as the guards pulled her away from her microphone.
My love goes out to you Patti Labelle. You tried to make it such a loving and joyful holiday and someone had to ruin it for you #pattilabelle #Milwaukee #riversidetheatre #threat pic.twitter.com/VBRqANgA3D
— Sunshine ⁷ 🌻 (@sunny_seokkie) December 11, 2022
At least one concertgoer livestreamed the venue’s evacuation on social media. Speaking to the Sentinel, an attendee named Catherine Brunson explained that “somebody got on a microphone and said we have to evacuate the building because there was a bomb threat. We came out and police had the block taped off… A whole lot of people were pretty upset… It’s scary.”
Another ticketholder, Scott Pierce, told the publication that the incident “happened so quickly”. He said: “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. Just sad that someone does this.”
Law enforcement confirmed that a bomb threat was reported, with Milwaukee Police captain Warren E. Allen Jr. writing in a statement (around 10:30pm on Saturday) that “all patrons [had] been safely evacuated” and police were in the process of “clearing the facility”.
At 1:13am on Sunday morning (December 11), Allen confirmed that the Riverside Theater had been “searched by K9 units”, with and “explosive devices were discovered”. He assured those in the area that “there is no threat to the public at this time”.
LaBelle herself is yet to comment publicly on the situation. In a statement shared by operators of the Riverside Theater, though, it’s said they are “working with [LaBelle] to reschedule the show”.