“If love doesn’t feel like 90’s R&B, then I don’t want it” has been a statement that I’ve been seeing a lot lately, and apparently it was the same sentiment being shared by several Baltimoreans on this MLK Weekend.
Sunday night spawned a new concert, entitled the “R&B Explosion” show, which quite honestly, we hope turns into a regular thing. Taking place at the newly remodeled Baltimore Soundstage concert venue nestled right in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and presented by promotions company A Step Above The Rest, the show featured two mainstays from the 2000’s R&B landscape, as well as some local talent. We had the opportunity of experiencing musical ying and yang on stage, when Bobby V and the Godmother herself, Lil’ Mo took the co-headlining spots on this show. As we all know, R&B seems to be a dying breed over the past decade, so when we have a chance to revel in pure rhythm and blues euphoria, we have to take full advantage of it.
Granted the male headliner reigns from Atlanta, GA, the show was dominated by a few of our own hometown performers. I’m not exactly sure if the promoters did this purposely, but it was certainly a nice touch to shine spotlight on some of the talents picked out of Baltimore City.
The show kicked off with yougin’ of the bunch, Chop Johnson, followed by Jerzey Shawn. Don’t be fooled by the “Jerzey” in his name, this brother made it more than clear that he repped for the 410! Accompanied by a young lady on stage who doubled as his duet partner for a few songs, Shawn put you in the instant mood of love jams and smooth cuts. All while taking in his performance, I kept getting a slight Jaheim vibe by the tone of his voice, which is NOT a bad thing in the least bit. Pretty much what it meant to me was that he was in the business of making grown folks music, and from the looks of the crowd, it was nothing but grown folks in the place to receive it.
Once all of the opening acts were done and out of the way, now it was time for the “meat and potatoes” of the show if you will. It was approximately 9 PM when the Supawoman aka Godmother bka Lil’ Mo took her rightful place on stage. There was no introduction needed, as the intricate, electric beat from her biggest solo hit “Superwoman” blared over the sound system, and she bopped on stage, the eager crowd went wild.
Literally every time I see Mo, she has a completely different look. She had become pretty synonymous with rocking her blonde tresses, but she decided to ditch that look, and bring a simplistic, 1920’s flapper influenced look to Baltimore, which ultimately worked really good for her.
Enough about her look, because that’s not why we’re here. Everyone knows Mo (real name Cynthia) is about singing her face off at any chance that she can get, and boy, is that what she did. There are some people who just sing, because that’s their “job”, and put little to no emotion into their performance…nah, not this woman. You literally feel the passion, and even the pain that she felt during penning some of these songs while live, that makes you remember when you were going through it as well.
One thing I respect about Lil’ Mo is that she generally keeps it ALL the way real, which some people have the tendency to knock her for. I just take it as you’re seeing exactly what you’re getting up front, but that’s the Bmore in her. In-between songs, she’ll break away from the main lyrics and give you anecdotes that’s generally related to the story line of said song, but referencing what REALLY happened in her life.
At about 30 minutes in running time, her show consisted of a bulk of her songs, both with credits as a songwriter and performer. “Hot Boyz“, “Put It On Me“, “4 Ever” and even a cover of Lauryn Hill‘s “Ex -Factor” were all there, but surprisingly missing was her 2005 track “Dem Boyz“, which got a lot of airplay in Baltimore, and the music video was filmed here. No lie though, that’s the one song I was looking forward to seeing the most since that beat went SO hard, maybe she’ll add it to future sets after seeing this review…here’s hoping at least.
After the madame of the night was finished, there was a brief pause in the set to make way for the next performance. For a short time, the DJ turned that place into an old school party, playing many of our favorite “go to” party anthems, as well as some classic Baltimore Club Music hits. If you know like I know, back in the day, if you wanted to get a party rocking, have the DJ throw on some club music and that would take the party into auto pilot. Coincidentally the same thing happened last night, as people danced it up while forgetting about the intermission.
Now it was time for the second main course of this R&B platter, Mr. Bobby V (otherwise known as Bobby Valentino). At this point in my concert going life, there hasn’t been too many acts that I have yet to see in concert, but prior to Sunday night, that statement held true for V.
He strolled to the stage as suave and chill as ever in a black blazer with black tinted shades in the style of some of our great R&B vets. Then again if you think about it, at this point in his career, he IS a vet in his lane. His opening number was the song that made me initially take notice to him, 2005’s “Tell Me“. This track featured an infectiously sexy beat, that at the time of its release, was guaranteed to get any female moving her hips on the dance floor, and from a quick look around the venue, it had that same effect.
There were absolutely no frills in this show, no annoying hype men who generally takes some focus off of the main artist, no female background dancers hitting every beat, it was just Bobby and his keyboard, which prior to this show, this was a hidden talent that I didn’t know he possessed. It was this attribute that made me realize he was more than just your run of the mill R&B singer, he was an actual artist.
A few times I took a step from behind the lens of the camera and just basked in the essence of the show itself. For once, I was standing at a concert where not everyone was focused on having their phones up to record and take pictures, but seemed to be immersed in the show itself. THIS folks is what R&B music does to you, and why it’s important for it to stay around! Oddly enough, Bobby V slightly touched upon this topic when he made a comment in reference to the struggling relevance of the genre, and a call for more people to continue to support it. Insert the mandatory plug for his new album “Hollywood Hearts”, which dropped in October 2016. There were a few in the building who weren’t aware that he had a new album out, but he quickly put them on point when he began to play a few tracks from it.
Albeit the promotion of new music was prominent, you know you can’t forget the hits, since in essence that’s what people come for. We were taken on a road trip of good memories and equally good tunes, as he performed “Beep“, “Anonymous“, “Mrs. Officer” and “Slow Down“. A decision to throw in some classic records from R&B groups of the past made this show even more explosive then it already was. All in all I have to give it to this brother. The ability to still push forward with your craft and talent in a music scene that the the mainstream tends to turn a death ear to is to be commended. Like with all great things of the past, they tend to come full circle again, and I truly feel it in my blood that R&B will make it’s rebound to its former glory, and maybe Mr. Bobby Valentino will be one of the spear-headers of that movement.