Sunday, February 27th was a night of R&B nostalgia when New Edition's The Culture Tour made a stop at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena in Baltimore, MD. As fans made their way into the venue, they were treated to the turntablism skills of the legendary DJ Kool. Then, around 7:10pm, K-Ci, Jo Jo, DeVante, and Mr. Dalvin of Jodeci, took the stage.
With an enthusiastic welcome from the crowd, Jodeci opened their set with the "I'm Still Waiting" remix before transitioning into "Fun 2 Nite". The group's decision was a wise one, as I honestly never thought I would hear either song live. However, as R&B fanatics know, Jodeci's bread and butter are slow jams and ballads.
For the next 25 minutes, fans were taken back to the nineties as the foursome performed some of their signature songs. "Come & Talk to Me," "Stay," "Cry for You," and "Love U Life" were just some of the highlights of Jodeci's set. I've seen the group's spin-off act, Kci & Jo Jo, a few times in the past and was never impressed with their performance. However, seeing the Hailey brothers reunited with the DeGrate brothers brought out the best in them vocally. While the Hailey brothers slew the vocals, the DeGrate brothers entertained the crowd with dance moves. My only gripe about Jodeci's show was that DeVante didn't get a chance to show off his piano skills. Jodeci then ended their set with "Get on Up."
After a brief intermission, where DJ Kool continued to entertain the crowd, it was time for the magic of New Edition! Since first seeing NE live in 1997 on the ill-fated Home Again tour, I've lost count of how many times I've seen them in concert. I purposely avoided any footage of the Culture Tour as I wanted to experience the show with a fresh perspective. The show opened with all six members performing the debut single "Candy Girl" followed by "Mr. Telephone Man," and to the astonishment of the crowd, the group went into "If It Isn't Love" next.
The choreography was pristine, and Ralph Tresvant's vocals still sound silky smooth. However, the concert took a woeful turn when group member Bobby Brown exited the stage mid-song due to falling ill. Brown wouldn't return for the rest of the night, and concurrently, group member Michael Bivins was also MIA for portions of the show due to a minor ankle injury.
Naturally, some in the media and those looking for social media attention will attempt to portray Brown and Bivins negatively for their actions that night. However, what these men do every night at their age receives my utmost respect. Thankfully, New Edition's years of performing experience allowed the show to move on. Ricky Bell stepped up to the plate to perform Brown's solo hits "Roni and "Every Little Step." While Johnny Gill showed out on "My Prerogative" and "Jealous Girl."
The best dancer in New Edition, Mr. Ronald Boyd DeVoe Jr., moved throughout the night with the precision of a man half his age, and Ralph Tresvant solidified his legacy as one of the all-time great lead singers. I must say though, my favorite moment of the night was the group's brief cover version of The Floaters, "Float On”.
The Culture Tour is a night filled with hits from both the solo and group catalogs; thus, fans of New Edition should not miss the latest tour. After nearly forty years in the music industry, NE shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Final Grade A-