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After 7 brings their soulful sounds to The Birchmere

Alexandria, Virginia's legendary music hall, The Birchmere, hosted the R&B trio, After 7, on Sunday, May 15th. The group, comprised of founding members Kevon Edmonds, Keith Mitchell, and new member Danny McClain opened their sold-out show with a sleek video montage set to a lively jam session from their backing band. Hitting the stage like the seasoned pros, the group opened their performance with a one-two punch of "Heat of The Moment" and "One Night" from their 1989 self-titled debut.

To my surprise, the group then transitioned to 1995's Reflections album for a passionate rendition of" 'Til You Do Me Right ."Recent addition Danny McClain took the lead on this song, showing off his smooth baritone in a performance that would surely make original group member the late Melvin Edmonds proud. The group then brought to the present day with a performance of "No Place Like You" from their latest project, Unfinished Business (which honestly was one of the best albums released last year).

Following an energetic performance of "Can't Stop," which featured the backing band mixing in an interpolation of "Back That Thang Up," the group blessed the audience with another new song, "Bittersweet ."I commend the group for the song's production as it caters to a younger crowd while staying true to the signature After 7 sound. Most importantly, the track avoids the use of auto-tune.

It was then time for the cover portion of the show, where each member had a chance to show out vocally. Kevon's graced the audience with a snippet of The Weeknd's "Earned It" while Keith took on Lenny Williams's "Cause I Love You" . Both songs perfectly set up Danny to start the performance of The Original's "Baby I'm For Real," which his group members later joined him on to bring the house down.

There was a point in the show where Mr. Edmonds mentioned he was having a minor throat issue, but I wouldn't have known based on his performance. Kudos to Kevon, though, for carrying on as a professional and performing "24/7" from his 1999 solo debut. I also want to shout out the band with J-Fly on the drums, Brian on the Keys, and Edge on Bass, as they stayed in sync with the group all night.

Naturally, due to time limits, there were some omissions from the setlist, including "Gonna Love You Right," "Truly Something Special," and "Can He Love You Like This ."Nevertheless, the group's sharp choreography, excellent singing, and lively banter more than makeup for the song's beings absent. The night closed out with a performance of what many consider the group's signature song, "Ready or Not," where they more than earned the standing ovation the audience provided.

Final Grade: A


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