The Black Promoters Collective have somehow did it again…it almost seems like they never miss. After last year and being able to do what many thought what was deemed as the impossible by bringing all 6 members of New Edition back together for “The Culture” Tour, what were the odds that we would get ANOTHER consecutive NE tour? I guess the odds were ever in our favor, because the 2023 Legacy Tour was a much bigger and more well rounded show (to us at least) than its predecessor, but it was only right as this was the tour to celebrate NE’s 40th anniversary as a group.
Thursday, March 16, I was bound to live my best musical life as I made my way to the Capital One Arena in the heart of Downtown Washington, DC. From the initial announcement of the tour, I couldn’t WAIT to attend this show because it literally was going to be a master class in New Jack Swing/Contemporary R&B performance. Anyone who KNOWS me understands that I’m one of those people who could listen to only New Jack Swing music for the rest of my life and be COMPLETELY CONTENT, so to have a bill with the likes of Guy, Keith Sweat AND New Edition, I was sold!
This was one of the few concerts that I’ve been to where the printed ticket time was the actual start time of the show, but we definitely weren’t running on CPT time for this one, as the R&B General Tank promptly made his way out on stage at 7:06 PM. Although the he’s the “youngest” act on the tour, he’s lately touted the idea of retiring from the music industry, but according to not only his appearance but also his set on this tour, all of his fans are wondering why?
It was a slick move on his behalf to open with “You’re My Star” to not let people forget who he is. For a special guest opening act, he’s got quite a number of UAC hits that have spanned across the last 20 years. In a bit of a condensed time frame, he was able to squeeze out performances of “Sex Music,” “Maybe I Deserve” and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” but it was when he went shirtless during “Please Don’t Go” that the ladies in the audience gave him the love that he was really looking for. As an extra special treat, he brought out J. Valentine for a duet of their latest joint single “Slow.”
To keep the pace and the energy of the show moving right along, there was little room for breathing as the next act was prepped to hit the stage. NO DISESPECT to anyone else on this tour because everyone is legendary, but I’ll have to be honest and say that Guy was the act that I was most excited about seeing perform. It’s been a few years since Aaron Hall, Damion Hall, and Teddy Riley collectively shared the stage with each other, and now couldn’t have been a better time for this reunion as New Jack Swing is celebrating its 35th year of being one of the biggest music movements to have been launched out of the late 80s/early 90s.
Smoked filled the stage as Aaron, Damion and T.R. ascended from beneath the 15-foot-high structure to a resounding applause, as a synthesized voice echoed the words “Groove me, baby, tonight!” around the arena. It was at this time that the party began for me and everyone in my row, and for the next 38 minutes we were transported back to one of those basement parties that was like a scene out of the movie “House Party”. Every old school dance was being put to work as we sang off key to “Goodbye Love,” “Piece of my Love,” “My Fantasy,” and “I Like.” The moment for me though was when “Teddy’s Jam” was performed. I don’t care where I am, or what I’m doing, whenever I hear that song, it just takes over me. Have you ever heard a song that just feels good down to your soul and radiates your whole body…yep, that’s what Teddy’s Jam does for me, so to hear it LIVE, I was all in. The only thing missing from it was Hall’s vocals atop of the iconic beat, but I’ll give that a pass, because it was just a sheer treat to have him in attendance period.
As a fan and follower of Guy, I know that in the past few years he’s dealt with a few health complications that kept him away from touring so to see him back with his brothers killing it in a full tour, just made my heart happy. Apparently I wasn’t the only one happy, because during their performance of “Let’s Chill,” Aaron made his way off stage to sing out in the audience, and all the mothers and aunties made sure to copy a little feel and a selfie as he made his way through the aisles.
Guy’s set ended with a smooth transition from the song “New Jack Swing” when Riley sang a line that referenced Keith Sweat, the stage went black, and then Sweat’s video intro immediately played.
The OG crooner Keith Sweat walked out on stage singing right off of the bat, going into two of my favorite songs from his discography “Don’t Stop The Love” and “I Want Her.” If anything, this was definitely the section of the show for the grown folks, as that’s who the bulk of Sweat’s music is catered to. Your favorite “whining and begging” uncle came to set the mood for the lovers in the house, more particularly for when the show was over.
Before he really got into his set, he jokingly made the comment that “I can’t do all of my hits because I’m an opening act, and I don’t open up for too many people, but I’ll do it for these living legends.” Despite not having the normal time that he typically would have one a show of his own, he blazed through a myriad of hits that included “Get Up On It,” “Merry Go Round,” and “Door #1.” Midway through, he invited his younger bro Tank back out on stage for a rousing rendition of “My Body,” which we all know was a LSG hit. With his time drawing to a close, he invited yet another guest, when the man responsible for a lot of his biggest songs, Teddy Riley, returned to the stage. They shut the place down with fan favorite sing-a-long “Make It Last Forever” and “Nobody.”
At this point, it was around 9:30 PM and the NE4Lifers of all ages were packed in the building, decked out in custom made clothing awaiting the guys that they have been crushing on for 40 years, but they didn’t have to wait much longer. A brief video intro played highlighting many of New Edition’s celebrated public press appearances from over the years, before all six members ascended from under the stage to their 1988 single “Crucial.” It was at this moment that I realized, and appreciated, the fact that we were getting a totally different show from the last, and not a re-packaged ordeal, because the setlist was totally different. Instead of being heavy on the group material up front, they chose to hit us with two of the member’s solo breakout singles, Johnny Gill’s “Rub You The Right Way” and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative.” Unfortunately, mic issues would interfere in the midst of “If It Isn’t Love“, but it noticeably prompted them to go harder. It was more than apparent that during their off time, the group as a unit went back into “the lab” to fine tune this show, being both vocally and physically fit to push through a set that took them to their limits.
Living with a sister who was a New Edition fanatic back in the 80s, I was literally raised on their music, so it was nostalgia on 1000 watching “Cool It Now,” “Is This The End,” “Candy Girl,” “Popcorn Love,” and “A Little Bit of Love” in the same doo-wop fashion as they performed these songs when they were in their teenage years. With each member in their 50s, it’s awesome to see that they still have got the “if factor” that initially made them stars…and it also gives me a little bit of hope that I would still be able to move like them as further mature like fine wine.
Throughout the night they would continue to weave in between group smash hits with their off branch material, Johnny’s “There U Go” meshed with Ralph’s “Sensitivity” that slid right into BBD’s “When Will I See You Smile Again?” just to name a few. Before I knew it, the show was coming to an end with an energetic version of “Poison” and a swagged out rendition of “NE Heartbreak”, but I wasn’t ready to go home yet!
With several costume changes, including these light up Bell Biv DeVoe jackets that I wanted, six female dancers, a four-piece band with DJ, multi-tier staging and an amazing lighting, this was every bit of a pop production that befits their legacy. If you haven’t picked up your ticket to check out this dream concert, don’t wait until the last minute because with non-stop music front to back, this was worth every penny spent, plus some.