When five members of New Edition walked out onto the Superdome stage to close out the Saturday night show of the Essence Music Festival, some fans in the audience questioned the whereabouts of the group’s most famous member. Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant, and Johnny Gill, dressed in their matching gray suits, launched into the group’s early hits and fans were right there with them. But the nostalgia party really got started when Bobby Brown strutted out, jacket in hand and slung over his shoulder. The six singers stuck to their well known canon of hits like “Candy Girl,” “Mr. Telephone Man,” “Poison,” and “My Prerogative” while doing the kind of choreographed dancing that helped make them famous 30 years ago.
But some might say the night’s true headliner was Charlie Wilson, who had the crowd on its feet as he put on his trademark show, complete with costume changes for both him and his dancers. Wilson, coming off receiving a BET Lifetime Achievement Award last weekend, got the crowd going starting with his rousing “Party Train” opener and moving on to Gap Band hits like “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” to recent hits like “There Goes My Baby.” And there was no going wrong when he finished with “Outstanding,” which had most of the folks in the Dome on their feet.
Solange, Keyshia Cole, and Trey Songz started the night. Solange, an Essence Fest first timer, turned in a stellar performance while Cole was a little underwhelming despite a killer turn on “That’s The Way It Is” and an Etta James tribute. Songz played to his boudoir strengths with songs like “Neighbors Know My Name,” going from wearing a tux to ending his set shirtless.
Faith Evans, Jody Watley, Big Daddy Kane, Leela James, Avery Sunshine, PJ Morton, Bridget Kelly, Greta Prince, Deep Cotton, and Bilal played the smaller Super Lounges that ringed the Dome. Janelle Monae and Beyonce are set to take the stage Sunday night.