Concert Review: Heads of State Tour Bobby Brown, Johnny Gill & Ralph Tresvant @ Dell Music Center in Philly (July 19th, 2010)
And so, The Heads of State tour rolled into The Dell Entertainment Center last night. Slightly delayed by a good old fashioned-Delaware-Valley-summer-in-the-city-muggy-humid-rolling-rolicking thunderstorm, we made passage on the maiden voyage of this brand new Dell Entertainment regime. These guys are always around but they play a slightly lesser role than what they did when outside folk are running things (as reported from Saturday night's Funkfest proceedings).
We'd like to take this opportunity to thank the Dell Entertainment administrative staff for allowing us access for the remainder of the season. The Heads Of State are Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill and Bobby Brown. Between them there at least twenty tunes with probably 15 of which being bonafide hits (especially when you include the New Edition stuff).
Not unlike the Masters Of Funk with their take-no-breaks-or-prisoners approach to performing, The Heads rarely have a break in the action. All are onstage constantly.
Clearly the star of this bunch is Bobby Brown. Mr. Brown as well as this whole performance is rife with ironies and unanswered questions. The irony of it all is that the self-proclaimed King of R&B struggles to wear his own crown. His star is brightest yet dulled by the tarnish of his badass persona.
And yet after all it becomes the very thing that attracts us, drawing us in, almost voyeuristically. One unanswered question is if Bobby Brown had produced for us another album or two, full of hits, would he not be far off from his self-proclaimed boast of being the King Of R&B?
Further then since he didn't can we place the blame for the demise of strong, growling, kick ass soul singer at his feet? We've really got be start taking a look at these things because in the spirit of Sankofa we can't safely address this situation before look into the past, warts and all. Going back to move forward. The show started with a group called Unison TV/Motown Revue Project. What I can say is whomever the person or persons responsible for the performance given by this talented group of children deserves a round of applause. They apparently recruited and then subsequently trained about 50 children. These kids learned about classic black music icons. They learned about them on a deep level. They learned how they moved, who they were, how they performed and whatever else was necessary for them to pay tribute to these greats.
You see we need these sorts of things to demonstrate at every opportunity that the hope I swore was gone is in fact alive and well in many of our children. There were tributes to Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvellettes, The Temptations, Nat King Cole, Stevie Wonder, Kim Weston, The Jackson Five and finally Michael Jackson. This took about 45 minutes and was actually well done. It was like the Dell folks saying, hey, we're holding it down as they gave the crowd what was basically a 45 minute lesson in classic black music. It was done revue style and with tracks. I'll always go for a band but in this case the message delivered in any way becomes as important as the actual music itself. One of the ways we're going to heal from the psychic trauma we've gone through over the last 40 yrs. or so is to keep reminding ourselves that we're great, have done some of the greatest things EVER on this plane and CONTINUE doing the same now.
Lastly there was an excellent MJ imitator.
All I'm going to say about that is this: who would you say is greater Elvis or MJ? I mean to YOU and you know who you are!!!!! Who's greater to YOU, MJ or Elvis????
Since that man died in the seventies how many Elvis tributes of some kind have you seen or at the very least been made aware of? Get used to it not only are you going to see MJ tributes, you should. It's a shame nobody has done the same for Marvin Gaye, James Brown or Sammy Davis Jr. Those Elvis shows are and have been well-produced and performed for many years now. At least keep the MJ thing going because we sure aren't keeping anyone else alive as such.
The Heads of State can be summed up in one word, enjoyable. There's a sort of perverse pleasure in seeing someone other than you step into adulthood with it's trappings of mortality and lessened invincibility. They hit all of the hits and then some in what was a 2hr.-feeling 90 minute set. They even had a nice cameo appearance from Boyz II Men's Nate Morris! Ralph Tresvant did a fine job on his hits as well as his New Edition leads like Candy Girl, Can You Stand the Rain and some of NE's older hits. Johnny Gill did yeoman work with Rub You The Right Way, My, My, My, Fair-weather Friend and Half Crazy. He also played a hollow body electric guitar on an almost 20 minute, five song, ballad, stool sit set. However CLEARLY the star and main attraction tonight and every night of this run is and will be Bobby Brown.
All of his tunes kicked in with a certain preacher-like fervor. The band kicked em harder and the crowd in total awe responded in ways not seen since Marvin Gaye. Any other R&B cats doin this to the women lately? His tunes form the framework around which this concert is built. Mr. Telephone Man, Humpin Around, On Our Own, the irresistible Roni, Don't Be Cruel, Every Little Step and the definitive statement of My Prerogative are all monster crossover smashes. Bobby Brown couldn't 'f' this up if he tried...and believe me in not-always-so-subtle ways he tries. During Can You Stand the Rain hometown leaves the stage proper (it's this time that Nate Morris cameos), might this be some contempt? Fatigue? Damned they aint THAT old...they're just 'athlete' old. You know, at home they can dunk but in a game they might not even get close.
But I like Bobby Brown. Like all of the other great soul/funk/r&b men Bobby got balls, reputation, innuendo and everything else constantly running around . UNLIKE them he's made a lot of money off of it. His singing is raspy and tarnished but the tunes...the TUNES are just that good that you couldn't tell that to the honies assembled around the apron of the stage and throughout the audience. They were taking bras and panties off. Squealing for all of them but SCREAMING for Bobby. He teased, cajoled, antagonized and overall put on a show as best he could. I suggest that they continue. I suggest that whatever is or could be up their ass that would screw this up be dealt with swiftly.
Soul men got to keep up the tradition and until some kids get it and decide to pick up the torch (or these cats find worthy successors to which to pass it off) it's their responsibility to hold it down. for culture. For tradition. For love. For life.
Hire A Band
Concert Review: BOBBY BROWN,RALPH TRESVANT & JOHNNY GILL - GLENSIDE,PA @ The Keswick Theatre- 2-14-09
Let me say that this was the first time that I ever seen the Keswick Theatre TOTALLY SOLD OUT….people came in large numbers to check out New Edition vocalists Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, and Bobby Brown! Also, the women in the audience were ALL screaming for the 3 singers and singing EVERY WORD of almost EVERY SONG!! In addition, this event drew about 95% black people (a lot of middle-aged people, as well as the younger and older folks).
The show started at 8:15pm with a comedian (whose name escapes me), but his act really didn't leave an impression on me. He finished his set around 8:45pm.
At 9:05pm, Ralph, Johnny & Bobby came out with their backing band and began performing most of their solo hits and New Edition hits….each singer took turns doing the lead vocals for his songs with the other two guys doing backing vocals. Also, the songs were pretty short (most were no more than 3 minutes long)…
Starting off the set was Bobby Brown showing us that we're "On Our Own" (from the movie GHOSTBUSTERS). Bobby's vocals sounded a little rusty, in contrast to the well-polished vocals of Ralph and Johnny. Ralph was next, showing the ladies that he's a "Stone Cold Gentleman", followed by Johnny Gill being a "Fairweather Friend" (from his self-titled album). Ralph claims "Money Can't Buy You Love" (from the MO' MONEY soundtrack…[but it can buy some expensive tickets and $9 drinks at the Keswick….lol! just jokin'], followed by Bobby takin' "Every Little Step"…the slammin' uptempo cut that got everyone on their feet dancin'! The guys asked the question "Can You Stand the Rain?" (with all 3 doing lead vocals) featured some very nice acoustic guitar riffing by Mr. Johnny Gill and a moment of some funky bass. Ralph was "Helplessly in Love" while Bobby claims that there is a "Jealous Girl" in our town, but the highlight was watching Johnny show off on acoustic guitar! Ralph assured the ladies that he's "With You All the Way", followed by Johnny showing the fans that he's "Half Crazy" (LOL!)
The guys took a tiny break and began chatting….they even mentioned that their designated driver for their tour was Bobby Brown (I assumed that Bobby is trying to get himself clean from alcohol abuse).
Back to the music…Ralph showed us that he's "Lost in Love", and Bobby's in need of a "Girlfriend". At that point, Lil' Bobby came out and greeted the audience (at the request of his dad). The females were in Bobby heaven when Bobby defines a "Roni", followed by Johnny's "There You Go". Ralph said that he'll "Do What I Gotta Do", to the point of exposing his abs to all the now-screaming ladies. Johnny upped the ante by promising the ladies that he'll "Rub You the Right Way"…interesting enough, the keyboardist played some slammin' snyth riffs to the tune of The Gap Band's "You Dropped on Bomb on Me"…also interesting was the audience chant "I - I, I - I, I, I won't forget it!" Ralph fired back, promising the ladies more "Sensitivity"….slightly interesting part was Ralph's chanting from the Suzanne Vega song "Tom's Diner"….more interesting was the beatboxing of Bobby.
Johnny exclaimed "My, My, My" (sure look good tonight)….and yes, the ladies did look good….very interesting part was listening to Bobby trying to imitate Johnny's singing style. Bobby exclaimed to the ladies, "(I Wanna) Rock Witcha", with Ralph whispering 'Get up, get up, get up, get up' at the point where Bobby talked about sexual healing". Before ending the show, the fellas agreed to do one more song and it was up to Bobby…..why Bobby?….well, Bobby would say, It's "My Prerogative"…the nasty New Jack Swing sound filled the air as Lil' Bobby came out and pop-locked for the audience…and then his dad followed suit.
The show was over too soon at 10:20pm.
Click Here To Return To The Classic Soul Homepage