En Vogue: Still Sweet, Soulful and Sophisticated

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Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhona Bennett are show-stoppers during their recent live performance at Maryland Live Casino. (Photo by Timothy Cox)

By Timothy Cox

BALTIMORE, MD – Thursday night, May 25, 2018, turned out to be an exciting night of retrospective RnB soul during a recent performance by the 90s girl-group En Vogue.

Current members Terry Lynn Ellis, Cynthia Ann Herron and Rhona Lynn Bennett provided their unique brand of three-part harmony, while accompanied by a live band featuring drummer,Terrail Moody; bass player, Mykal Williams and Musical Director/keyboardist, Eric Williams.

In a 500-seat venue located within the Maryland Live Casino, the once-super group offered a tasty variety of their past hits, sprinkled with brand new tunes from their just-released album, ‘Electric Café’ – their first studio album release in 14 years.

Backstage following their 90-minute show, the ladies were expectedly prim and proper and offered an air of self-respect among a small, controlled group of private fans who were allowed to hang-out with them. All three ladies were quite conversational and quickly gave-out sweet “church hugs” to their faithful fans, including this writer.

Rhona Bennett (center), has made her mark as the new girl in the group, joining original members

Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron as the latest version of En Vogue. (Timothy Cox photo)
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Though Chicago-born Rhona Bennett is the newbie in the band, her onstage persona demonstrates that she’s no rookie. In fact, what she lacks in physical curves is easily compensated in all-out physical talent and stage presence. I simply call it her sexual appeal. And for longtime En Vogue fans who feel they may miss the elements of by-gone original members Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones, don’t fret. Today’s version of En Vogue is just as, if not more exciting than the original quartet. Note that Ms. Bennett has a recurring role on the still-syndicated Jamie Foxx Show.

At the recent show, the group wasted no time in setting a strong tone. They kicked-off with “My Lovin: You’re Never Gonna Get It,” from their second LP release ‘Funky Divas.’ Then they delved into the hits from their 1990 debut album, “Hold On,” “Lies” and “Whatta Man.”

Terry Ellis, the Houston native and Cindy Herron, the Oakland girl, are still in remarkably great shape, and not only are their looks intact – these ladies are in fine, fine physical shape, I mean their choreography was outstanding – nearly 30 years after their performance debuts.

Terry, Cindy and Rhona were funky divas during their rendition of their
Classic hit, “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,”  from 1992.(Timothy Cox Photo)
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Other tunes that received strong reaction were vintage tunes like “You Don’t Have To Worry,” “Free Your Mind,” and “Don’t Let Go.” And it was a special moment when Terry introduced their hit “Giving Him Something He Can Feel.” Of course, the original tune was recorded by Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin for the original “Sparkle” movie soundtrack (1976), and revived in 1992 by En Vogue.

Just to hear Terry recite the name “Curtis Mayfield” as the song’s composer in a new-millennium setting, was a welcomed treat considering that many of today’s younger RnB  fans aren’t aware of the tremendous songwriting talents of the late Chicago-born singer-songwriter, and former lead singer of The Impressions – so, let’s say it again, CURTIS Mayfield and not Baker Mayfield, the Cleveland Browns’ rookie quarterback.

During their heyday, En Vogue were very popular entities, and with their fine looks were constantly welcomed as guest-stars on TV shows and movies alike. They appeared in the following roles: Aces: Iron Eagle III, Batman Forever,  En Vogue Christmas TV Special, In Living Color, A Diff’rent World, Roc, The Wayans Brothers and even two appearances on Sesame Street.

The original group hailed from Oakland, California and were comprised in 1988 by the producing-duo of Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy. The concept was to create a sophisticated-soulful girl group, in the mold of ‘60s girl bands  like Diana Ross and The Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and The Ronettes.The concept is still working. For a two-year period (2001-3) the group also featured a young lady named Amanda Cole.

BACK TO THE MAY 2018 CONCERT:Again, let me stress that while En Vogue introduced us to a few of their new, soon-to –be released songs, the bulk of the audience at Maryland Live Casino on this night, were starving for the old classics, and were not bashful  about yearning to hear the not-so-oldies but goodies – the 90s, to be exact. In fact, the trio probably should give real thought to covering the Guy-Teddy Riley classic, “Piece of My Love.” Their soulful rendition of what Terry describes as “That’s My Song,” was definitely on-point, and to hear a girls-group whip-up a tune typical of a soulful boys band was quite refreshing. Don’t be surprised if we hear En Vogue’s new reprisal of Teddy’s jam on the radio. Ironically, the original was also released in 1988.

En Vogue’s Maryland Live audience offered a luke-warm, respectful reaction to new tunes like “Rocket” and  “I’m Good” composed by the great Raphael Saadiq, but it was plain and clear that these folks paid their hard-earned  loot  to see classic En Vogue! And best-believe they got their money’s worth too. And, If they come to your town, you’ve gotta checkout the trio! No doubt.

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