Updated: Mar 29
Photos courtesy of Scott Suchman
One of the great modern songwriters, Ne-Yo, brought his talents to the world-renowned Kennedy Center for the first night of two sold-out shows on Friday, January 27th. Phenomenally talented conductor Steven Reineke led the orchestra as Ne-Yo took the audience through his impressive nearly two-decade catalog. Carrying the moniker An Evening With Ne-Yo, the show was part of the NSO Pops series.
Taking the stage around 8:10, Ne-Yo lived up to his persona as a gentleman dressed in a stylish black suit. After introducing himself, the crooner opened his set with the fan favorite "Ms. Independent" before bringing the crowd to their feet with an energetic "She Knows." The up-tempo vibe continued through the following three songs, "Because Of You," the MJ-influenced "Nobody," and another personal favorite, "Champagne Life."
In the past, I've had the pleasure of seeing R&B artists backed by the Kennedy Center Orchestra, so imagine my surprise when Ne-Yo performed selections from his most recent album. "You Got The Body," "U 2 Luv," and "Handle Me Gently" were all met with a favorable reception.
Of course, the night wouldn't be a show without Ne-Yo crooning some ballads. I'm partial to slow jams and ballads, so I was hoping to hear "Religious" and "Good Man" as part of the setlist, but both saw omission. Ne-Yo's first solo hit, "So Sick," brought the house down, as did passionate performances of "Do You" and "Mad." Ne-Yo didn't perform anything from the Good Man or RED albums, both of which have songs worthy of an orchestra. So that's my one gripe with the show.
Ne-Yo also took time to perform hits he wrote for other artists. Hits from the catalogs of Mario, Keri Hilson, Rihanna, Beyonce, Piles, and Fabolous that Ne-Yo played a part in were all performed. Ne-Yo closed the night out by performing some of his EDM songs, ending with "Time Of Our Lives," which turned the Kennedy Center into a full on-party.
Seventeen years into his solo career, Ne-Yo shows no signs of slowing, and I highly recommend checking him out next time he's in your town.
Final Grade: A