By Michael Kinney
First ran in The Yukon Review
For those who grew up in the 1990s, your memory of music will be completely different than those who are coming of age today.
Back then, there were a variety of different styles and concepts. Everything from Gangsta Rap to Grunge to Heavy Metal was on display and there seemed to be something for everyone.
That was also the time that R&B groups were on top of the world. You couldn’t turn on an urban or pop radio station and not hear Boys 2 Men, En Vogue, 112, Guy, or Dru Hill.
Yet, that wave started back in the mid-1980s with New Edition. Five kids out of Boston helped reshape the music landscape for the next two decades.
So, it was not a surprise that when it was announced that New Edition would be in Oklahoma City on the Culture Tour, it was going to be a must-see event for any kid who grew up putting together their own slow jams tapes and CDs.
“it was really nice to have that back, being able to enjoy a show with a nice crowd,” Trevon McKenzie said. “It was so laid back and I didn’t hear any negative situation the entire night.”
Joined by Jodeci and Charlie Wilson, New Edition and the Culture Tour were at the Paycom Center on March 27 in front of a crowd that extended from the floor seats all the way up into the top rows of the arena.
“I have been to several events like weddings and other concerts, but I was surprised at the turnout,” said Grechan Santiago, who traveled from Lawton with a group of 14 to see the show. “It was great to see everyone enjoy themselves so much with great groups and music.”
The night began with the newly reunited Jodeci taking that stage first. DeVanté Swing, Mr. Dalvin, K-Ci, and JoJo may go down as the greatest opening act in R&B history.
Jodeci, which was formed in 1989, didn’t waste any time and jumped right into classics such as “Forever My Lady,” Stay” Freek’n You,” and “Cry For You.”
In the 90s and early 2000s, there was Jodeci and Boyz 2 Men at the top of the mountain. Like Prince and Michael Jackson or “The Justice League” and “The Avengers,” whoever you thought was the best said a lot about you to many.
For a segment of the audience, Jodeci, who hasn’t toured together as much as the other acts, was the group they wanted to see the most.
“Jodeci was the best for me,” said Herman Stevenson. “Maybe because it was my first time seeing them in concert.”
While Jodeci’s set lasted only 30 minutes, they packed in all their standards and had the crowd singing along with them the entire time.
When Jodeci was done it was Charlie Wilson’s turn. The Tulsa native, also known as Uncle Charlie, was making another appearance in Oklahoma City.
Despite being 69 years old and recently having surgery on both knees, it didn’t slow down Wilson too much. Sporting a variety of bright sequence jackets (gold, purple, white) and matching sneakers, he performed for more than an hour.
“Uncle Charlie was my favorite part of the show because I knew his background of what he’s been through,” McKenzie said. “And he still put on a very good show.”
Decked out in all black except for the silver and black trench coats, New Edition burst onto the stage and leaped right into “Candy Girl.” From then on it was like a trip down memory lane.
While New Edition has toured on and off during the past decade, the reunions have not always been drama-free.
This time around all six members of the group – Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill- were all on hand.
When New Edition’s set began, the members even brought up how special it was to have all of them on stage together.
“We loved it and it was epic. Bobby Brown was so good for us,” Santiago said. “We thought he was going to disappoint because he started slow but he killed all the songs he did.”
After Brown stepped off stage during one song, he later came back and joked that he wasn’t too familiar with the tune because it had been written after he had been kicked out of the group.
In one of the more sentimental moments of the night, with just the two of them on stage, Bell talked about what it meant to have Brown back with the group.
“We are so happy that you are here with us now,” Bell said to Brown. “I speak for everyone here when I say that we all know that you have been through so much. I just want to say that I love you.”
One of the great things about seeing New Edition is you are getting five acts in one. Brown, Gill and Tresvant all had solo careers and were able to incorporate some of their biggest hits into the show. You also have Bell, Brown and DeVoe, who combined to make BBD.
Each group member had their moments to shine.
New Edition performed all or part of 25 songs. They included “Mr. Telephone Man,” “Is This The End,” “Poison,” ”Every Little Step” “Rub You the Right Way” and “MR. Sensitivity.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed the show,” Stevenson said. “I thought each group performed well. New Edition was what I expected, although they could have gone a little longer. But I think they were tapped out on songs.”
After almost two hours, New Edition closed out the night with one of their most popular song, “Can You Stand The Rain.”
“I enjoyed so much of the show,” said Santiago. “I mean Johnny Gill was great and Ralph with Mr. Sensitivity, he sounded so good. BBD, they still got it after all these years. The show just didn’t disappoint.”
While turmoil and infighting have seemingly surrounded the group since they first hit the big time, their fan base has stuck with them. Just as importantly, the members have stuck with each other through everything. That is something many bands from that era can not say.
“That’s something you can’t even manufacture. That comes from life, living, experiences, ups and downs, and the good and the bad and all of those things rolled up in one that causes us to create and have the type of brotherhood that we have,” Gill told Vibe Magazine. “From many years of being around and being together, you grow together so it’s not something you can manufacture. It’s not something you can even describe. It’s just a connection that you have from just having family and brothers and knowing that we’re brothers. Regardless of what we go through, there’s always that foundation of brotherhood that’s undeniable.”
Story: Michael Kinney; Photos: Torrey Purvey
Story First ran in The Yukon Review