I was 8 years old when my parents took me to my first concert. The Universal Amphitheatre was massive, but it seemed like it couldn’t hold all of the people that streamed in and filled the seats. I remember heading down the steps to our seats, keeping an eye on how close we were getting to the stage for the group that I was so in love with at the time. We ended up maybe about 20 rows from the stage, aisle seats.
The lights went down, music started playing and the screaming that filled the packed hall was deafening. Then, it happened: The lights came back on, and there stood five young boys with their heads bent down. I was so sure they were waiting for all the girls to stop screaming so they could start singing. After what seemed like forever, they started with their first song. I vividly remember running down the steps trying to get even closer to the stage. That band who put me, along with thousands of other girls, in a tizzy was New Edition.
Though the formula of synchronized choreography and soul was around before their time (the Jacksons, O’Jays, Delfonics, etc.), New Edition are the original “boy band.” With their ages ranging from 8 to 10 years old at their inception, they paved the way for groups like ‘NSync, One Direction and Backstreet Boys.
I haven’t seen New Edition since that time way back when, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well they performed all these years later. They came out on the Nokia Theatre stage Sunday night the exact same way they did all those years ago. This time, there was a sixth member, Johnny Gill, who joined the group when Bobby Brown left for his solo career. Anyone who knows the history of Brown (yes, the one who was married to Whitney Houston) can appreciate the level of dedication that he put into performing with his bandmates.
The evening’s performance was the final leg of a multi-city tour across the country that saw the sextet playing to sold-out crowds. Last night was no exception, and this time I was acutely aware of who was in attendance – all the fans that were either my age or a little older at the time of my first concert! The camaraderie was infectious as I saw virtual strangers dancing and laughing with each other, doing all the dance moves that hooked us back in the heyday of this talented quartet. I didn’t think I was going to be as excited, but as soon as “N.E. Heartbreak” started playing, it was just like old times.
The band members are now well into their 40s, pushing 50 even, but it didn’t matter as they sang classics like “Cool It Now” and “Mr. Telephone Man.” Each member broke off to perform songs from their solo careers – Bell Biv DeVoe with “Do Me” and others, Ralph Tresvant singing to a trio of beautiful women hand-picked from the audience, Brown singing songs from his impressive solo stint and this generation’s Luther, Gill, with his wonderful baritone.
The group put on such a great show and truly showed why they are the pioneers of the boy-band movement in such a fun way.