January 18, 2009
Better than:All the Philly steaks you can eat
It had been announced that, for this performance, the multiplatinum R&B superstars Boyz II Men would be performing tunes from their 2007 cover album Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville U.S.A., but I had vowed to raise holy heck if they didn't sing the group's classic debut single, "Motownphilly."
I needn't have worried, for Boyz II Men know exactly what their audience wants, and "Motownphilly" kicked off a show heavy on the crowd-pleasing material.
The group remains a trio (Shawn Stockman, Wanya Morris and Nathan Morris) following deep-voiced Michael McCrary's departure in 2003, but these three gentleman each have a strong tonal range that easily compensates for the bottom end that McCrary used to belt out and their songs still sound at least as good as they do on record, even with a not particularly hi-fi backing track rather than a live band.The Motown selections were well-known without being the most obvious ones: Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears," The Temptations' "Just My Imagination," Edwin Starr's "War," Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" (which was popularized by the Beatles), and the Four Tops' "It's the Same Old Song" and "Reach Out (I'll Be There)." All came complete with Hitsville's patented tight choreography, and plenty of genuine smiles to go with the powerful pipes, but their cover of Starr's song was extra-electric.
The Men returned to their anthemic originals to close out the show: "I'll Make Love to You" and "End of the Road." The latter was a choice way to end a short but sweet 60-minute set from these consummate pros who still have plenty of vocal life left.
Personal bias: "Motownphilly" is in my iTunes Top 25 Most Played (don't judge me).
Random detail: While this was a show that attracted ladies of many races and ages, lots of the men in the crowd knew all the words to the ballads, too. Their affection prompted Shawn Stockman to say, "I love you too, bruh, and I mean that in the most heterosexual way possible!"
By the way: Stockman tossed me a long-stemmed rose, and that was pretty neat.