Review: New Edition puts star power on display
REVIEW BY SJARIF GOLDSTEIN / firstname.lastname@example.org
For its first performance in Hawaii, R&B supergroup New Edition put its full star power on display with a Father’s Day concert at Blaisdell Arena that sometimes seemed too focused on quantity — but was ultimately satisfying.
With a collective catalog of nearly 50 hits to cover, the band at times chose to patch together pieces of songs rather than thrill the crowd with full-length versions. The risky move paid off, however, allowing the band to squeeze 22 songs into its 100-minute set, but sometimes left the audience hungry for larger servings of their biggest hits.
With such a deep repertoire of songs to choose from, New Edition — clad in white three-piece suits and sunglasses — had many options for opening the show strong, but decided to go with “Word to the Mutha!” off Bell Biv Devoe’s 1991 remix album “WBBD — Bootcity!”
It was a strange choice for acouple of reasons. First, with the show starting more than 40 minutes late, the crowd was antsy and looking for a reason to get up and dance, and the midtempo “Word to the Mutha!” doesn’t quite deliver. Second, it isn’t one of their better-known songs, landing well down the list in the hierarchy of NE-related hits.
The choice was logical in one sense, as it was the first song to feature all six members of the group … except that on this night, it didn’t. The boys took the stage without Bobby Brown.
Fitting for the lineup that was on stage — Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe — NE followed with two songs from “Heart Break,” the album on which Gill replaced Brown.
For “If It Isn’t Love,” the group busted out many of the signature moves they displayed in the video, and many in the crowd danced right along as if trying to lay claim to being the group’s long-lost seventh member.
Tresvant showed he still has the pleasing tenor that America saw him develop as a teen, doing more than justhitting the notes fans are so familiar with.
The band then slowed it down with “You’re Not My Kind of Girl” before quickly rousing the crowd with the arrival on stage of Bobby Brown, who has had the most success outside the group.
Brown led the sixsome in a pumped-up performance of the 1996 smash, “Hit Me Off,” their first single with the full lineup.
Just when the crowd was excited to have all six members finally on stage together, the concert came to a screeching halt, as the band members took about 15 minutes to introduce themselves. The introductions were mostly uneventful — until the ever-unpredictable and forthright Brown stepped forward for his turn.
After thanking his fiancée, Alicia Etheridge, he made reference to the death in February of his ex-wife, pop megastar Whitney Houston, thanking the fans “for being there for me, for my family, both the Brown family and the Houston family.”
He then announced that he and Etheridge planned to wed Monday, before rambling on in praise of NE’s 29 years — “You don’t ever see a black group do that,” Brown said.
After the introductions. Gill left the stage while the original lineup charged through abbreviated versions ofsome of the band’s earliest hits, segueing smoothly from “Jealous Girl” into “Is This The End,” a snippet of “Popcorn Love” and the breakthrough 1983 hit, “Candy Girl,” before wrapping up the segment with “Mr. Telephone Man.”
Just as things were taking off again, Brown took center stage for another monologue, declaring himself “7 1/2 years clean from narcotics” before adding, “I didn’t say alcohol. I still have a drink every now and then.”
He then thanked the members for “always being there for me” before launching into a diatribe about how he was kicked out of the group in the mid-‘80s, which evolved into a “he said, he said” between him and Tresvant, capped by the original quintet returning to its early catalog by singing “Cool It Now,” the underappreciated (even by the band, apparently) “My Secret (Didja Git It Yet),” and “Count Me Out.”
Gill then returned to perform his signature ballad, “My, My, My,” tossing about a dozen roses into the audience. Brown kept the quiet storm brewing with his hit slow jam “Roni,” capping the song by saying “Happy Father’s Day” and bringing two of his kids — LaPrincia and Bobby Jr. — onstage, followed by his fiancée.
Brown left the stage with his family so the spotlight could shift to Bell, singing lead on the Bell Biv Devoe hit, “When Will I See You Smile Again?” Tresvant then brought the house down with his sole solo smash, “Sensitivity,” many audience members filling the aisles.
Gill stepped to the forefront again for two NE hits — “Can You Stand the Rain” and “Boys to Men” — and “In the Mood,” off his recent solo album, “Still Winning.” For that last song, Gill engaged the audience once again, walking out into the crowd to exchange longing stares with several female fans while he growled seductively.
The group’s other five members made good use of the time, slipping backstage to change clothes. They re-emerged from the break having donned dark blue Adidas track suits, white T-shirts and baseball caps for the show’s athletic closing.
They kicked it into high gear with Brown’s “My Prerogative,” the only pop chart-topper by any of the band’s members (not counting Brown’s cameo on “She Ain’t Worth It” by Kauai’s Glenn Medeiros), and proclaimed, “The party is NOT over.”
It wasn’t, but soon it would be. After a snippet of “Do Me!,” the sixsome got the crowd as psyched as it was all night with another BBD hit — the iconic “Poison” — and then said aloha with shakas and bows. On this night, “aloha” meant no encore, and the crowd seemed to know it, filing out even as some members posed for pictures onstage and continued to offer some riffs from “Poison.”
Though many hits had been bypassed (no “Every Little Step”?!?!), the crowd of 30- and 40-somethings there to reminisce about the past seemed ready to move on, ironically enough, thoughperhaps they just had the afterparty in mind.