The Black Promoters Collective has been helping churn out the hits, in the form of concert events lately! One of the most highly anticipated tours of the year made its way to the Baltimore Metropolitan area during CIAA Weekend. Sunday night (February 27) saw the arrival of the legendary boy band New Edition bring “The Culture” Tour to a sold out crowd at the Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena. Following the tour since it started roughly a week ago, we already knew that this would be a major event and would bring out all of the “NE4Lifers”, but we weren’t expecting the levels of fanfare that was present. Despite arriving somewhat early, traffic leading to the venue was backed up for more than a mile off of the highway exit, making some fans jump out of the passenger’s side of the car to run to the entrance so they wouldn’t miss not one minute of the show. We cannot help but to call that the New Edition effect.
In the midst of that mad dash, we made it inside the venue around 7:15 PM, where the original “Bad Boys of R&B music”, Jodeci, were currently laying down their stake. After not being in the public eye as a full group for some years, all four members were present. Yep, K-Ci, JoJo, Devante Swing, and Mr. Dalvin were reunited and putting everyone in their “feels” with the distinct sound that helped defined the early 90’s. Kicking off their segment with a remix to “I’m Still Waiting“, the group made it evident that they weren’t going to just give you the main entrée of their songs, but wanted to serve you with a full course meal, which was a well calculated move.
Don’t get it twisted it though, the set was full of the mega hits that put them on the map. From the minute the opening line to “Come And Talk To Me” rang across the arena speakers, the concert immediately turned into one of the biggest sing-a-long sessions that I’ve seen. K-Ci’s voice still held up strong on the leads with JoJo on the backgrounds going through the back catalog, that included “Love U 4 Life”, “Forever My Lady”, “Lately”, “Feenin'” and others, while Devante and Dalvin kept the crowd hype and engaged with their signature grinding. Ending with “Get On Up”, the up-tempo, feel good track had everyone up on their feet. Seeing as how they were totally in to the groove, we can see this was a set up for them to launch their own headlining gig.
The full bill of The Culture Tour typically includes Uncle Charlie Wilson, but due to other previous arrangements, he wasn’t on this tour stop, but that didn’t bring the party train to a halt, as the tour emcee, DJ Kool kept the good vibes going via his live mix, which served as a seamless transition of stage setups. The mantra of “ain’t no party like an old school party, cause an old school party don’t stop” still holds true, as I felt a quick flashback to a 90’s basement party. Once he dropped the Baltimore Club Music, the ante was up 10 fold. In the midst of dancing in the middle of the aisles, the lights went down and people ran back to their seats because it was time for THE SHOW!
A brief intro played highlighting the many times that New Edition has been referenced in popular culture, before a huge LED wall ascended into the rafters, unveiling all six member of New Edition. As the crowd went boisterous from the sheer sight of Ronnie DeVoe, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Mike Bivins, Ralph Tresvant & Johnny Gill, the group kicked off with their breakout single “Candy Girl“. For the next 90 minutes we were taken on a roller coaster ride of 40 years’ worth of a musical legacy that most of the attendees have been around for since the very beginning.
Running through memorable tracks such as “Mr. Telephone Man”, “NE Heartbreak”, “Hit Me Off”, “Jealous Girl”, “You’re Not My Kind of Girl” and “Count Me Out” just to name a few, the fellas commanded the stage with such poise and presence that many of these younger acts out today could learn a thing or two from. As the drumroll dropped for “If It Isn’t Love“, I looked around and saw women starting to fix their clothes and prep themselves to hit the routine along with the performance, with some even rivaling the 6 female backup dancers who were hired to dance. New Edition nailed the iconic steps mimicking the video, but halfway through the performance, Bobby Brown noticeably walked off stage, but the other 5 members didn’t miss a beat as they continued to dance a hole into the stage.
One thing that’s totally unique about a New Edition concert, is that there are so many subsects within the group with so much music, that a setlist could literally change and be different each night. It was very much interesting to see how solo material was integrated in to include the whole group, for example Bobby’s “Roni” was performed with Ricky taking the lead on vocals and Johnny’s “My My My” included the rest of the guys singing background, then on top of that, you had BBD hyping things up with their own section including “Do Me!“, and Ralph smoothing things out with the ladies with “Sensitivity”. The catalog of music runs DEEP!
What personally caught my eye for a bulk of the night was the way in how the group was dressed. Whoever their stylist is needs a raise if you ask me, because granted they have always looked well put together while performing, it was something about the combination of the jackets and coats, coupled with the fedoras that gave them this uber sophisticated, debonair but contemporary look. They reminded me of the super cool uncle in your family that everyone loves…even having me want to go out and get a similar hat and jacket combo.
Closing out the show with the career defining single “Can You Stand The Rain” was such a chef’s kiss moment that they couldn’t have chosen any other way to end the night. Being where they are in their careers and lives and moving like they did, it’s crystal clear to see why these gentlemen are legends.
With all that’s been going on in the World lately, this was just the mental “break” that I needed to let my mind be worry free. I stand firm in saying that this concert has been the best 2 hours and 30 minutes that I’ve had in all of 2022 thus far, so do yourself a favor and catch this when it comes to a city near you.