Here’s something I will always proudly and freely admit – I am a child of and love the 80s.
You know, the decade of lots of hairspray, leg warmers, Walkmans, tight Guess jeans, high-top shoes, jeans tucked into ones socks, jellies, Members Only jackets, Adidas (track suits and shoes).
You get the visual.
As I’ve aged, there are many days when I happen to catch a music video from this era and I think we looked a hot damn mess. I know at the time, we thought we were doing it, but really, we were not.
There is, however, one thing about the 80s that I will always defend and probably never tire of.
Much could be said about how horrible the style of dress was, but you can’t say the music was bad, because it wasn’t (especially if you compare it to what’s being produced now, but that’s a whole ’nother blog and I’m starting to sound like my father).
Most everyone can identify an artist, duo or group that defined their childhood. For me, the group was New Edition. I was in the third grade when Candy Girl (the first of seven studio albums) was released.
And I have been a dedicated and life-long fan since listening to that cassette tape.
My very first concert? New Edition. The posters that blanketed my wall (and ceiling) in my room? Again, New Edition. My first crush (on a famous individual)? Ralph Tresvant, lead singer of New Edition.
Is it no surprise, then, that when I found out they were touring and would be performing (on my birthday no less) in Los Angeles at the Nokia Theatre, that I would be right there traveling down memory lane and reminiscing about the time of my life where everything was all about fun, fun and more fun?
Coming out hard to Bell Biv DeVoe’s (BBD) Ronny, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph And Johnny (Word To The Mutha)!, the fellas (Ralph Tresvant, Ronnie DeVoe, Mike Bivins, Johnny Gill and Ricky Bell) sounded strong and never missed a dance step as they moved on to If It Isn’t Love and You’re Not My Kind of Girl (from 1988s Heart Break).
It wasn’t until the song Hit Me Off that “Bad Ass Bobby Brown” joined his band mates (he referred to himself as such during the show).
If you aren’t familiar with NE history, Bobby was kicked out the group and had a successful solo career. He eventually reunited with the group in 1996 where the group recorded Home Again.
They subsequently parted ways (again) after some drama, but have since mended fences and all seemed well June 24.
They (as we all have) have definitely gotten older, hence the two breaks in the show. The first was right after the aforementioned set of songs. Everyone introduced themselves (I can’t imagine anyone in the audience not knowing who was who, but I guess it’s possible).
Can I just say how happy I was for this break because I’ve gotten older right along with them, and I needed a moment to wipe the sweat from my brow and catch my breath for the next round of songs.
Through the years, NE went through several transitions (Bobby’s departure left four members; a few years later, Johnny Gill joined the group and it was back to five; Bobby came back and it increased to six only to decrease back to five after he left again).
The flow of the show did a great job reflecting all these adjustments.
While I reminisced about the past as they sang (sans Johnny) Jealous Girl, Is This the End, Popcorn Love, Candy Girl and Mr. Telephone Man, it was fascinating listening to adult men sing songs recorded when they were young pups with still developing voices.
Those grown, mature voices still had fabulous harmony, pitch and timing.
They also needed another break, which went on far too long with Bobby and Ralph debating the reason why Bobby was kicked out of the group.
More history – there was a period of time when all members were off doing their own thing; Ralph and Johnny both released solo projects, while Ricky, Mike and Ronnie formed BBD.
Johnny rejoined the rest, belting out his hit My, My, My (he turned real serious at the end); Bobby kept the slow groove going with Roni (and was typical Bobby with the nasty dancing); BBD continued the mellow flow with When Will I See You Smile Again? (I think Ricky is an underrated lead singer); and Ralph reminded us that women still need a little Sensitivity from their man.
I was impressed that, while everyone sang their own work, the rest of the members provided the back up vocals. It was wonderful to see them supporting each other.
The only time the stage cleared was when Johnny sung a new song from his latest release Still Winning. Towards the end I think he went a little overboard and caught the holy ghost, but that’s just Johnny being Johnny.
It was a nice touch for him to acknowledge Babyface – who was in the audience and thrilled the crowd with a few notes of a song I couldn’t quite place.
Finishing the show with BBD’s Poison was so appropriate because it’s one song that still gets everyone on the dance floor no matter where it’s played.
After this show, I realized that while fashion designers are busy trying to bring back parts of the 80s (I’ve seen leg warmers in the store and thought “What the heck?”), New Edition is one thing that will never go out of style.
Setlist (parenthesis indicate which artist sings the song): Word to Your Mutha (BBD), If It Isn’t Love, You’re Not My Kind of Girl, Hit Me Off, Jealous Girl, Is This the End, Popcorn Love, Candy Girl, Mr. Telephone Man, Cool It Now, My Secret (Didja Gitit Yet?), Count Me Out, My, My My (Johnny), Roni (Bobby), When Will I See You Smile Again? (BBD), Sensitivity (Ralph), Can You Stand The Rain, Boys to Men, It Would Be You, My Prerogative (Bobby), Do Me! and Poison (both BBD).