Tom Sandoval Got Booed While Shirtless at Bonkers NYC Concert

·12 min read
Sarah Galli/The Daily Beast
Sarah Galli/The Daily Beast

If God himself had created a reality TV villain, he would not have done a better job than Tom Sandoval. For millions of Bravo fans and pop culture followers, the epic saga of this year’s Scandoval, as it has been dubbed, has been the entertainment story of a lifetime. When news broke that Sandoval, a longtime star of Bravo’s hit series Vanderpump Rules, had cheated on his long-term partner Ariana Madix with one of her best friends, Raquel Leviss, both of whom are also in the cast, the Bravo community melted down.

In essence, Tom’s dick broke the Internet. And in the weeks that followed, a bloodthirst for new content about the chaos has only grown stronger. Especially now that current episodes have caught up with what’s happening IRL.

National news outlets are tracking updates on the fallout. Madix has been crowned the People’s Princess. Leviss is reportedly seeking treatment for mental health support. And Tom Sandoval went on tour.

That’s right, the man currently embroiled in one of the biggest out-of-court scandals in Bravo history is touring the country with his cover band, Tom Sandoval & the Most Extras. In spite of the scandal’s notoriety, some Bravo fans have felt this is a show that can’t be missed. Is it possible to attend and even enjoy Tom’s tour, without liking Tom himself?

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Sure, other Bravo stars have gone on tour, monetizing fan support and interest in their extracurricular pursuits. But Sandoval may be the first Bravoleb in recent history who, in a feat of wild timing, is touring the country to perform for audiences that include folks booing on his ex’s behalf.

Sandoval had a scheduled date Monday night at the Gramercy Theatre in New York City. Naturally, I attended.

On Tuesday, Sandoval sent me a statement about why he decided to go on tour while all of this other drama was happening. “Everyone has been so great and nice! I am super stoked. We didn't think for a second to delay—the majority if (sic) shows are sold out,” he said. (As someone who was there, it did not appear as if this Gramercy Ballroom show was sold out.)

Before the show, I spoke with several concert goers waiting in line, about whether the Scandoval influenced their decision to attend, and if they considered themselves Team Ariana or Tom.

As the VPR theme song goes, these are the best days of our lives.

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Angelica, who asked for her name to be withheld (understandable), is a Vanderpump Rules fan. She bought a ticket to the show after the Scandoval news broke. Prior to that, she wasn’t aware Sandoval was on tour. “I've watched the show since it started,” she said. “And with all the drama going on, I thought it would be cool to come out.”

Angelica is “Team Ariana. Of course. She’s a queen. And that’s it.”

She wasn’t sure about the vibe inside. “I feel horrible spending money on this, but it's also something to do. Maybe Raquel will show up, and we’ll see something go down.”

I asked if she hoped that that would happen. “Yes! Of course!”

Angelica said that had the Scandoval not existed, she would not have been interested in attending the show, or even watching the series. “I feel like the season has finally gotten good,” she said. “I stopped watching for a long time. And then since all this started happening, I started watching again. I feel like the show has gotten better.”

I asked if she thought tonight’s show would be good. “No! Of course not,” Angelica quickly replied, laughing. “It’s a cover band. I’ve never actually listened, I’ve just seen TikToks of it. And it’s just so bad. But it’s funny! It’s entertaining. You don’t come to hear really good, quality music.”

Erica—who is “Team Ariana, of course”—purchased her ticket to the show months ago, the day it went on sale. “And then the Scandoval broke,” she said. “And I'm like, ‘Geez, I have this ticket. How embarrassing.’ And I kind of thought no one would show up for this. And I had an idea that maybe they would just cancel the show. But I never got that email saying, ‘Oh, the show's canceled. We'll give you a refund.’ So here I am just thinking, ‘Oh, well, I have the ticket.’ But I'm not 100 percent excited about being here.”

Nell came to the show with her boyfriend, Mike, after being offered tickets last-minute, thanks to a friend who couldn’t attend. Nell said she likely wouldn’t have agreed, except for the Scandoval attention. “I've always felt like there's like a fair amount of misogyny on the show, especially coming from a lot of the male stars,” Nell explained. “I would never have been inclined, I don’t think, to come.”

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I asked Mike if he’s seen Vanderpump Rules. “Only the episodes I’ve been forced to watch. I’m here to be a supportive boyfriend, and to listen to some music.” When asked what team he was on, Mike quickly responded, “Team Ariana. I’ve been trained. I got that down.”

Friends Molly and Nina consider themselves “Team Ariana, but not forever against Tom. Team Forgiveness!” They purchased their tickets after the Scandoval.

Nina wasn’t sure how she would feel once the show began. “I feel slightly uncomfortable cheering for him,” she said. “It's like an inner battle, trying to separate the man from his mistakes. But at the time, I feel like I'm kind of committing some sort of betrayal by cheering.”

Molly felt differently. “I'm gonna cheer. He gets enough hate online, he could use a little support,” she explained. “We're gonna eventually forgive him, because he's gonna be on the show. Might as well start to show him a little love.”

They both thought Sandoval might acknowledge the scandal during the show. Nina hoped he would. “It’s new content!,” she said, laughing.

Another attendee asked to remain anonymous: “Say, ‘I talked with a gay man outside Tom’s concert.’” Anonymous Gay Man Outside Tom’s Concert bought his ticket after videos of the band’s performances started going viral on social. “Have you seen those? So that piqued my interest because this is bizarre,” Anonymous Gay shared, “the same way that you watch a train wreck. Or, it just feels like it would be like going into a haunted house where it, like, totally spooks.”

“I saw one video where he mentioned Raquel, and everyone started booing at him,” he continued. “And I was like, now I'm actually hoping he'll mention Raquel. Just so we can all start booing.”

Anonymous Gay had assumed there was going to be an attendee-style Whitney Rose Hilling Journey. “It feels like the community's coming together, but the vibe here is insane. Like I thought it would be all people coming to like, I don't know, like, laugh or something. And it seems like there's truly [Team Tom] fans here. So it's a weird hybrid.”

Anon G. said he didn’t know genuine fans of Tom’s music existed, until he arrived at the venue. “It’s really scary to me,” he said. I asked why he was scared.

“Have you seen him perform?”

What Was the Vibe?

The audience in the Gramercy Ballroom included VPR fans of all ages and genders, though overwhelmingly female. And a mixed group of supporters, as Anon Gay somewhat fearfully predicted—including women holding onto Tom during moments when he came in contact with the crowd. Singing notes that the songs’ composers didn’t dare dream to hear.

There were certainly shouts of “Send it to Darrell!,” “Cheater!,” “Team Ariana!” during songs—all references to gossip on the show—but at many points, cheers drowned them out. (“How’s your relationship with Lisa??” was a personal fave.)

There was a moment I realized—while Tom was singing “Groove is in the Heart”—that I was somewhat hunched over in my seat, fully clenched, with my hand over my mouth. I noticed several other attendees doing the same. At one point, Saturday Night Live star Chloe Fineman danced next to me in an aisle.

<div class="inline-image__credit">Bravo</div>

Tom, meanwhile, was taking in the crowd. In the words of Bethenny Frankel: evidently, he’s Madonna. And his show? It was Most Extra, indeed.

Tom had costume changes, including sequined leopard print pants. There were—trigger warning—lighting bolts aglow on the lapels of his jacket. Tom played the bongos. Tom rapped whilst wearing a backwards hat. Tom danced freeze frame during “Take On Me.” Tom played the trumpet. Tom took off his shirt. Tom announced that he was drinking Heineken Yes and then handed out shots to the crowd. Tom had a fog machine, and bubbles. Tom laid on the floor.

Tom did not explicitly mention the scandal, but did reference Vanderpump Rules. He sang a version of “Stacie’s Mom” that was VPR-themed (“Schwartz’ mom has got it goin’ on”). It was hard to hear and understand some of the lyrics on account of the screaming, so I’ll leave it in God’s silly putty hands to let me know if he sang, “Raquel is not for me,” or “Raquel is hot for me.”

(A request for lyrics was sent to Sandoval’s publicist, which was not received prior to publishing.)

Unlike at Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan’s shows, there was not an ounce of irony felt or expressed by the artist, regardless of the crowd’s feedback. Much like Tom’s recent interview with Howie Mandel, this was a man in full showmanship mode, feeling himself. “I don’t want to lose your love tonight,” Tom sang. For some, it was never there. And for others, it came as a surprise.

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There were moments when I found myself tapping my feet and bopping my head. Was I enjoying the singing, or the original songs he was covering, I wondered. I assume I was separating the music from the person, but the only reason I was hearing the music was because of the person.

The Scandoval drew me here, but what happens if I have a good time?

I talked about this with producer and podcast host Tracie Morrissey, who attended Tom’s show on Long Island a few days prior to his NYC showcase showdown.

While the NYC show had a mostly-filled audience (albeit less so in the millennial elder care section, where I was seated), Morrissey said the LI crowd was much less crowded. At one point, two-for-one deals were available.

“I was really, really shocked at the amount of money he's invested into this, because you don't really get the sense until you see it,” Morrissey shared. “It's a 10 piece band, which is wild.”

Morrissey said the vibe was About Tom. “I've never seen such a narcissist—like a real deal narcissist, in person—acting like that before. It was very, like, ‘I want all this attention.’ He was eating up the few applause [breaks] that he was getting, you know?”

Morrissey did express interest in supporting Sandoval’s other ventures, including his new LA restaurant, Schwartz & Sandy’s. Not because she was a fan of Tom, but of Tom culture. He is, in the words of Connor Roy, “a curio.”

She had a great experience at the show, but perhaps not for the reasons Tom intended. “I had a blast,” Morrissey said. “I had a huge smile on my face the entire time—because I could not believe it. I could not believe what this guy was doing. The hubris to try to do Freddie Mercury and then try to rap. This is all such an expensive midlife crisis. I guess some people get cars, expensive cars, and he's doing this.”

But, Like, Was It Any Good?

After the show ended, I spoke with attendees about their reactions.

Cori was hyped up because she stood close to the stage, so that she could get a clear shot of Tom’s eyeline. She had various pics and graphics saved on her phone that she pointed toward the stage: Team Ariana, a picture of Ariana in her reunion “revenge dress,” even a shirtless picture of Ariana’s reported new man, Daniel Wai.

“He definitely saw them,” she said excitedly. “We stan Ariana. She’s our queen.” She came with her husband Matthew, a new fan of VPR thanks to their marriage, and didn’t want to miss out on a Bravo experience, one that she also said was positive.

But she felt the need to qualify the night’s success. “If his name wasn't Tom Sandoval, he'd be playing at a bar.”

Pump is open until July!

I ran into a group of fans outside the theater. Jamie attended with her mom Kim, among others. They were wearing sequined TomTom shirts that they purchased at the show. As VPR fans, and fans of cover band music, they said they would’ve come regardless of the Scandoval, and loved Tom’s voice and leopard print.

“It humanized him,” Kim said of the night. They even had a chance to meet him before the show. “He was entertaining. He was good. He was enjoyable. He was a nice guy on stage.”

They loved the music, the effort he put in (mentioning his makeup, body, and song choices, perhaps not in ranking order). “Yes, he has scandal around him,” Kim said. “But it doesn't affect me personally.”

I asked Kim if she was Team Tom or Ariana, and she said she wouldn’t pick a side. “She’s a divorce lawyer!” someone interjected.

“I mean, she has grounds to divorce him!,” Kim responded as we laughed.

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Erica circled back after the concert, somewhat chagrined. “Don’t be disappointed in me, but I really enjoyed the show,” she said. “He actually is a great performer—not the best singer—but it's a good time. And I really liked the selection of the songs. It kind of reminds me of Woody Allen, that you have to separate the art from the artist.”

After I picked my head up off the floor, she continued. “I feel like I got my money’s worth.”

“I might even go buy merch.”

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