(March 23, 2014) Endless traffic, hit-and-miss soundchecks and hour-plus show delays usually signal anything but a good time, but those infuriating obstacles didn't keep R&B faves like Joe, El DeBarge and headliner Teddy Riley (with his group BS2) from moving the crowd of nearly 4,000 fans at Grand Prairie's Verizon Theater late into (and beyond) Saturday night.
Due to back-to-back legal entanglements and working overseas, Riley's presence in the music industry these days has been heard more than seen, so anticipation was palpable when the lights dimmed and a mock news bulletin appeared on venue screens, CNN-style, to proclaim that there was "no more Blackstreet" and announce "the next generation," BS2. Fans stood on their feet and watched expectantly as the still-youthful Riley, J-Stylz (Sherman Tinsdale), Lenny (Harold) and Tony Tyler took to center stage.
Accompanied by a DJ, drummer and a pair of keyboardists, the white-wearing quartet fell into tightly-synchronized choreography and crisp harmonies, dropping verses from a possible up-tempo single entitled "Bad To The Bone" before launching into a signature Blackstreet ballad, "Don't Leave Me." Tyler's resonant baritone and J-Stylz' warm tenor were prominently put to use, but it was Lenny "Change" Harold who sung the most leads, transforming "...Leave Me" and "Joy" with vocal dips, glides and falsettos that earned resounding applause and approving kisses from multiple ladies.
Despite the early pronouncement that Blackstreet was null and void, its legacy was inescapable, particularly with the appearance of another original member, Dave Hollister. Greeted with a standing ovation, Hollister added his familiar buttery vocals to "Before I Let You Go," "Baby Be Mine" and one of early solo smashes, "One Woman Man." His roots in the California church community were evident when he refrained from singing the infamous "get laid" lyric, but it didn't keep Hollister from playfully re-enacting "how I used to beat it up" with jovial hip thrusts and mock air-slaps. The remaining set, a video-accompanied time-machine retrospective of Riley's prolific catalog, had folks jamming along as Riley manned the keyboards and vocoder for a trip through the prolific catalog of Riley-honed hits, including Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," Keith Sweat's "I Want Her" and Michael Jackson's "Remember The Time." After exchanging verses with the crowd from "Rump Shaker," "Groove Me" and "New Jack Swing," the entire BS2 collective rejoined Riley for "No Diggity," where Riley invited all-too-willing women to "back it up" as the performers hovered at the stage's edge and were swarmed for kisses and pics.
The remaining crooners, Joe and El Debarge, also got their share of love: Joe's hour-long stage slot started with his appearance in black slacks, a crisp white jacket and shades: by the time he sang and danced through "More and More," "Let's Make a Love Scene," "Faded Pictures," "Stutter," "Where You At" and a new single, "Love & Sex," he had stripped down to the half-opened shirt, leading the screaming cluster of women down front to dance and snap selfies with him as he sang "All The Things (Your Man Won't Do")" and "I Wanna Know." El's set, unfortunately, was plagued with an unreliable mic and track system, forcing the entertainer to perform the bulk of his too-short set with simply an electronic keyboard.
Despite those setbacks, DeBarge remained suave and enthralled fans with his still-powerful tenor and falsetto high notes that would've made EW&F's Philip Bailey gift him with a high-five. The lack of instrumentation didn't keep the crowd off their feet or from singing along to "I Call Your Name," "There'll Never Be," "All This Love," "Time Will Reveal" and "Stay with Me," the only number that managed to incorporate a track via Biggie's opening verse from "One More Chance." El didn't announce pending new music like Joe did, but his heartfelt proclamation,"I went all the way to the penitentiary and back [for drug addiction], but y'all still got love for me," led to a standing ovation that dropped the R&B legend to his knees and evoked silent tears before he exited stage left.
By Melody Charles