Morgan Wallen Duffs It Once Again

photo: Ryan Smith

You can’t blame artists for cancelling shows if it’s a serious situation. People before music. You also can’t blame an artist for not wanting to put on a subpar show if their voice is gone, or they’ve got the green apple splatters, or whatever the situation happens to be. Then the backlash can be even greater than what happens if you cancel, because at least people get a refund as opposed to a bad show.

But it’s also not unreasonable to expect artists to give concertgoers fair warning about a cancellation unless it’s circumstances completely beyond their control, perhaps especially in country music when folks travel from rural areas to see their favorite artists, sometimes spending money on travel, hotels, and even airfare.

You can’t let fans load into the venue, get a beer in their hand, and then last minute, pull the plug. It’s not cool. And this is what Morgan Wallen did in Oxford, Mississippi on Sunday night, April 23rd at the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, even waiting until after openers Hardy and Ernest had performed to flash a message up on the big video screens saying,

“Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately Morgan has lost his voice and is unable to perform tonight – therefore tonight’s show has been cancelled. Please make your way safely to the stadium exits. Refunds for tonight’s even will be available at point of purchase.”

Wallen later said on social media, “After last night’s show I started losing my voice so I spent the day resting up, talking to my doctor and working through my vocal exercises trying to get better. I really thought I’d be able to take the stage and it kills me to deliver this so close to showtime, but my voice is shot and I am unable to sing … I am so sorry, I promise you guys I tried everything I could.”

Morgan Wallen fans can and should forgive the cancellation. But they’re fair to to be pissed about the last-minute circumstances. Lots of fans took to social media to grouse about the situation, including some enumerating all the expenses they incurred to make it to the show, resulting it one viral post from a woman blaming Wallen for a tab of nearly $4,000.

Oh but it gets even worse. One concertgoer named Brandi Burcham filed a federal lawsuit on Monday (4-24) against Morgan Wallen, accusing him of breach of contract and negligence, citing that at the time of the lawsuit, the University of Mississippi had yet to refund tickets, and even if/when they did, it would not cover out-of-pocket expenses. The plaintiff has made the lawsuit a class action, meaning other Morgan Wallen fans can join it.

There were even some claiming that Morgan Wallen’s excuse of losing his voice was cover for something else. A security guard working the event claimed on social media that Wallen was too drunk to take the stage, and had been taken away in an ambulance. This rumor was later debunked.

BEST Crowd Management released a statement saying, “A hired employee of BEST Crowd Management made false claims as it related to last night’s Morgan Wallen concert and we do not stand behind the detail in his statement. Please refer to Morgan’s social media pages for details.”

A lot of Morgan Wallen detractors (and there are a lot of them) who were first jumping on Morgan Wallen for the cancellation are now jumping on his fans for being crybabies. But this is far from an isolated incident, or compartmentalized to mainstream country stars.

It seems like post-Covid, we live it the era of cancellations. This discussion came up when Eric Church cancelled his arena show in San Antonio to attend a college basketball game. Yes, he ended up playing some makeup shows, but that’s beside the point. It used to be that performers would make showtime at any cost. And maybe that was a more unhealthy era in entertainment. But the era we’re in now is one where you almost expect the rug to be pulled out from under you for a concert, and you feel grateful when it isn’t.

And yes, it does make a difference that it was Morgan Wallen in this instance since he has a pattern of doing stupid stuff. The jackals on Twitter and in the media are just waiting for Morgan Wallen to slip up, and are going to be less forgiving and understanding when he does. He’s burned through his good will, which means he has to be even better and smarter than his peers.

But let’s also not act like this is some massive strike against Morgan Wallen’s character that your favorite country artist would never get caught doing. The situation brings to mind a couple of the cancellations by the Turnpike Troubadours during their troubles in 2018-2019 before their hiatus. Most of the time they cancelled before load in. But a couple of times they didn’t. Granted, the band now seems to be on the right track, and even when they recently cancelled their upcoming Washington D.C. show, they did it many days in advance.

Willie Nelson also had a situation in 2018 where he delayed coming out on stage, then finally came out, only to whip his hat out into the crowd, turn right back around, and ultimately, cancel well after the show should have started. The green apple splatters were rumored to be to blame for that instance. And of course with his advanced age and the way Willie has spent nearly a century touring his ass off, he’s earned a level of latitude from his fans and the public that Morgan Wallen hasn’t.

In both the Willie Nelson situation and the numerous Turnpike Troubadours instances, fans took to social media to complain, including some enumerating their personal expenses just like Morgan Wallen fans are doing now.

Look, it sucks. You’re all hyped up to see your favorite artist, and then it doesn’t happen, with the only consolation prize being a refund you often have to fight with a ticketing company for. And these instances are happening more and more now that it’s more socially acceptable to cancel after Covid-19, including shows where it just is financially difficult to pull it off, or an artist just doesn’t want to play, as opposed to fulfilling the obligations they originally committed to.

But for all the Morgan Wallen fans who complain each time award shows come around that he’s not picked for Entertainer of the Year despite clearly superior sales and streaming numbers, stuff like this last minute cancellation in Oxford is the reason. Morgan Wallen may be the leader on the charts, but he still fails to show the leadership on the stage that country music and the country industry wants to showcase.

This is why artists like Luke Combs tend to be more favored by awards shows and the rest of the industry. Nobody’s perfect. But you feel an artist like Luke Combs will always put his fans first, and have the forethought where even if there was a reason he may have to cancel a show, he’ll give his fans as much future notice as possible.

Morgan Wallen’s handlers and doctor are to blame here too, and should be held to account. But ultimately, the buck stops with Morgan. He’s the one whose name is on the ticket. And fair or not, he’s the one taking the blame. Again.

Morgan Wallen has since been officially placed on vocal rest, and postponed shows in Michigan on April 27, Illinois on April 28, and in Nebraska on April 29th.

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This story was updated with details of the security guard claims of Morgan Wallen being too drunk to perform.

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