This past Thursday (September 20) at Boston’s Boch Center Wang Theatre, there couldn’t have been a more apt homecoming celebration for R&B legends Bell Biv DeVoe and Bobby Brown. The New Edition members were shy of two key players from the group — Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill — and performed under the moniker RBRM (Ronnie DeVoe, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, and Michael Bivins) instead.
The New Edition Story, a three-part series which premiered on BET last year and garnered 30 million viewers, renewed interest in the trials and tribulations of the Roxbury natives. The Bobby Brown Story, a subsequent biopic of the singer, premiered on BET earlier this month and showcased his astronomical highs and infamous lows; not only did these productions fill in the gaps for longtime followers, it introduced New Edition to a much younger demographic.
But on Thursday night, the old-school fans were the ones that filled every inch of The Wang Theatre with sheer excitement and unquestionable adoration. The night’s opening song, Brown’s rebellious breakthrough single “My Prerogative,” allowed members of Bell Biv DeVoe to switch off vocal duties with Brown. Songs like BBD’s “Do Me!” and Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” proved that this trend would continue throughout the evening as they split the setlist between both entities equally.
Although New Edition weren’t present in their entirety, that didn’t stop the four members of RBRM from performing songs from their catalogue. They expressed the importance of the group’s legacy and how selective they were in choosing the New Edition classics to sing. “Mr. Telephone Man,” “Hit Me Off,” and “Is This The End” were wise — and very popular — choices in front of an audience that has followed New Edition’s career for over three decades.
Bell Biv DeVoe’s funky and upbeat picks were perfectly complimented by Brown’s sultry R&B selections. The fun and light-hearted nature of “B.B.D (I Thought It Was Me)?” and “Dope!” nicely juxtaposed the tender balladry of “Rock Wit’cha” and “Roni.” The final two songs of the night, Brown’s “Every Little Step” and Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison” reminded us of the magic these men still possess.
They also stood as a testament to the fact that good music — especially in the realm of R&B — simply gets better with time.
All images by Candace McDuffie; follow her on Instagram @cmcduffie1.