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Monday, July 9, 2007

Friday Night: New Edition at Paramount Theatre

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2007 at 12:12 PM

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(Photo by KMEL's Tony Ng)

Better Than: Watching Pretty Ricky parodies on YouTube

Watch: An adorable early interview with New Edition from 1983.

We can pretty much blame New Edition for the boy bands of the late '80s and '90s, from New Kids on the Block (who, like New Edition, were from Boston and put together by Maurice Starr Jr.) through to N*SYNC. All those little white boys wanted to be like Ronnie (DeVoe), Bobby (Brown), Ricky (Bell), Mike (Bivins) and Ralph (Tresvant) -- but all lacked their consummate coolness.

New Edition absolves itself from this heinous crime by being genuinely great entertainers with 24 years in the business under its belt. Without a current album or song on the radio, it was still able to nearly fill the 3000-plus capacity Paramount Theatre and make it ring out with the voices of thousands of people reliving feel-good hits like "Candy Girl," "Mr. Telephone Man," "Lost in Love," and "Count Me Out." The almost 70-minute performance concentrated on hits, including "Do Me!" and "Poison" from Bell Biv DeVoe, the '90s side project from three members, and well-known solo cuts from Tresvant ("Sensitivity") and Bell ("When Will I See You Smile Again?").

The group is clearly inspired by the quality revue performances of James Brown and the Jackson 5. Clad in crisp white suits with sparkling accents, they employed much of the same choreography as it always had: Simple and sharp moves with Motown flair.

The audience spent similar time and attention to its sartorial flair. Especially two ladies that declared that they took the most time to get their outfits together. It showed: One's track suit said, "Where the F is Bobby?" while the other's said "Candy Girl" on the sleeves and "Tender Roni" (another Bobby reference) on the back.

Before New Edition took to the stage, the backdrop was revealed: Just a simple band logo and the names of all the band members, including wayward child Bobby Brown and latter-day member Johnny Gill. Brown wasn't scheduled to appear, but representing him on the sign was a respect that they always extend.

New Edition always leaves a light on for Bobby, but he rarely comes home. It's just a fact that the group has dealt with since the very beginning, but it has rarely held them back from being anything but thoroughly entertaining.

Openers K-Ci and JoJo got early arrivers on their feet and singing along to songs like "Come and Talk to Me," which they scored in 1991 as part of Jodeci. But the brothers' biggest response came as they honored the Bay Area--first by performing part of "How Do U Want It," their 1996 number-one hit with Tupac Shakur that found the bare-chested K-Ci pulling his pants down lower and lovingly imitating Shakur's thug stage swagger, and then with a brief a capella rendition of the chorus of "Rapper's Ball," which they recorded the same year with local rappers E-40 and Too Short.

Their set winding down, JoJo announced that their cousin was about to come on stage to make an announcement. I was hoping that this meant that their famous relatives Fantasia Barrino and Dave Hollister were about to bound on stage and belt out tunes. It was just as sweet that the cousin turned out to be a man eager to propose to his intended in front of Oakland and everybody.

"Hell yeah!" his fiancée answered, and the two stayed on stage to dance as K-Ci and JoJo serenaded them with their big ballad "All My Life."

As New Edition is fond of saying, a little bit of love is all it takes.

Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: Never trust a big butt and a smile.

Random Detail: In the lobby, patrons were able to pose for prom-like pictures in front of a backdrop airbrushed with the faces of New Edition.

By the Way: New Edition will take the rest of the year off and plans to release a new album in time for Christmas 2008.

--Tamara Palmer

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Matt Stroud

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