Late R&B singer and former frontman of nineties R&B quintet Hi-Five Tony Thompson would've celebrated his forty-seventh birthday on September 2nd. While his untimely passing still lingers in the hearts of fans, HI-Five's remaining members continue to keep his legacy intact.
In conjunction with City Winery's across the U.S., the group is performing their hits on a new tour entitled HI-FIVE EXPERIENCE UP CLOSE & PERSONAL. The fellas brought their talents to Washington D.C. on Friday, September 2nd. Treston Irby, Marcus Sanders, Shannon Gill, Billy Covington, and Faruq Evans make up the group now, and from their performance, it was clear they show no signs of slowing down.
The group took the stage in mason-style robes before revealing the evening's actual attire, matching red leather jackets and black pants. To my surprise, the group opened their set with an album cut, "I'm In Need," from 1993's Faithful. It's always refreshing when an artist opens up a show with something for the die-hard fans instead of a hit single.
In addition, I want to commend the group on their sharp choreography and having a backing band. Too often, legacy artists do a track show, which takes away from the live experience. The group kept the up-tempo momentum going with a smooth transition into "Just Can't Handle It." It was then time to slow it down, and the fellas went into their seminal bop, "I Can't-Wait Another Minute." Group members Billy Covington and Faruq Evans shared the leads while Treston Irby knocked it out on the park on the song's bridge and chorus.
Hi-Five then took fans back to their second album with performances of the slow jam "Quality Time" and the still infectious "She's Playing Hard To Get." Up next, the group Hi-Five entertained fans with performances of "It's Nothing" and "Different Kiss" from their 2014 EP. Naturally, it wouldn't be an R&B show without paying homage to your inspirations.
I must admit the tribute part of the time caught me off guard, but it was welcome as it gave the group members a chance to show off solo vocals. Treston performed Bobby Brown's "Rock Witcha," Billy performed Guy's "Let's Chill", and Faruq performed H-Town's Knockin Da Boots. H-Five then brought all the elements together to end the show's first half with the lush cover of New Edition's classic "Can You Stand The Rain."
Following a brief intermission for a wardrobe change, Hi-Five returned to the stage for some more ballads. It was evident that the group was missing their departed and each song took on a new meaning in the second half. "Uncondtional Love," "She Said," and show-stopping lead vocal from Faruq on "Faithful" were all worth the price of admission. Hearing "Faithful" live was a bucket list song for me, so I can't thank "Hi-Five" enough for adding it to the setlist.
The group closed its show with their signature song, "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)," with the entire audience singing along. If I had one gripe about the show, it would be the placement of 1993's massive hit and a personal favorite, "Never Should've Let You Go," in the setlist. After the group performed the "Kissing Game," my wife and I left. However, management later informed me that "Never Should've Let You Go" was the group's second encore.
Nevertheless, after waiting decades to see Hi-Five live, the wait was well worth it. While Hi-Five has suffered its share of heartaches, its City Winery performance solidified the group's talent and brotherhood.
Final Grade: B+