As Johnny Gill belted out, “Growing up can be a pain, you’re not a man until you’ve come of age, and we’ve given up our teenage years, in an effort to pursue our careers,” From the classic song, “Boys to Men” on the NE Heartbreak album, you couldn’t help but think what an amazing 29-year journey it has been for one of the world’s most prominent R&B groups. They there were, all six members of New Edition, singing, dancing, and loving the moment at the Nokia Theater as they took us on a trip down memory lane. For those of us in attendance, we were witnessing the maturation of six men whom we have come to adore for the music, moves, and magic they have created on and off the stage. Just as they took us on a musical journey, let me paint the picture of an experience of a lifetime.
Serving as the opening act, After 7 ended their performance with an amazing rendition of their classic song, “Ready or Not.” With the crowd in frenzy, the anticipation was high to witness Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky, Mike, Ralph, and Johnny hit the stage as a collective force. As the opening DJ got the crowd even more amped than we already were by playing a astounding mix of a few classic old-school hits, he brought out NE and from that point on, everyone from the front row to the rafters was on their feet rocking to the sounds and sights of the NE crew.
Dressed in black tuxedo style jackets with white lapels, shirts, and pants, initially Bobby, didn’t join the group on stage and I’m sure a few people were thinking, “Here we go again.” But this time around it was planned. As the group went into the song, “Hit Me Off’ Bobby emerged from the back and joined the group to a standing ovation. Not missing a step, the crew was back together on stage and all of their past disagreements and indiscretions seemed to be behind them. So much to the point that they cleverly added a conversation into the show between Bobby and Ralph about the way Bobby exited or was kicked out the group. They also joked about Bobby not showing up for the show. After seeing New Edition perform a few times, this show was different and that much more amazing due to moments just like that, where they embraced their trials and tribulations and found a way to incorporate them into the show.
Being the showmen that they are, during a segment of the show where they chose to slow it down, Bobby led things off with “Roni” as the crowd sang along through the entire song. Johnny Gill performed, “My My My” while Ralph let the ladies know he was a still a man with “Sensitivity.” But they weren’t done yet, as Ricky stepped out to give the crowd one of his classic, “ooohhs” as he went into the BBD classic, “Tell Me When Will I See You Smile Again.” Even as they showed off their individual talents, the entire group backed up each solo performance again displaying the solidarity that has allowed them to have an illustrious 29-year career. In those aforementioned 29 years, “Can You Stand the Rain” was one of their most popular and classic records. As the intro to the classic song dropped and the birds started to chirp, everyone was on their feet to help NE sing the song they way we have grown to know it and love it. With flawless execution, NE sounded as if they dropped the needle on the record and let it play based on how well they belted out the classic tune.
Throughout the show, it was that type of perfection, preciseness, pure energy, and just plain fun that reminded us all why we were there. We were literally witnessing history in the making as Johnny Gill jumped off stage asked the one and only Babyface to join him in a few riffs of his new single, “I’m in the Mood.” With Mr. Edmonds obliging and showing that he also still had the pipes, the crowd was being set up for the finale. As the rest of the group emerged from the back wearing red and white Adidas jump suits, it was time for BBD, Ralph, and Bobby to show us why they were chosen to emerge from the projects of Boston as one of the most dynamic forces in musical history. Whether it was Bobby bringing out his kid to perform, “My Prerogative” or the crowd chanting, “Hip-Hop smoothed out on the R&B tip, with a Pop feel, appeal to it,” we were once again shown the many facets of what the world has come to know as New Edition.
Just as the song suggest, “It’s driving me out of my mind, that’s why its hard for me to find, can’t get it out of my head”¦” we were all losing our minds as JG came back out to join everyone on stage as BBD and the rest of the NE crew closed out the show with, “Poison.” With their voices still in full force, their moves still precise, a pure passion for what they do, and their cohesiveness stronger than ever, New Edition is still and will always be a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. They have been through all the ups, downs, smiles, and frowns this industry has to offer but in the end we all know these are the things that change, “Boys to Men.”