Johnny G., Ralph T. prove New Edition remains a Major Force in the Music Industry, Amid Spin-offs; Still Makin’ the Ladies ‘Scream and Hollar’ For More
By Timothy Cox
Editor ‘n Chief
October 18, 2018
HANOVER, MD — A packed-house of about 2,000 folks, reflecting what sounded like screaming teenage girls, filled the seats at the newly-built Events Center at Maryland Live Casino.
The Friday night (Sept. 28) performance featured New Edition members Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant, this time as individual solo acts. The venue is located about half-way between Washington, DC and downtown Baltimore, and is adjoined to the Casino’s new hotel.
Johnny Gill (l) and Ralph Tresvant (r), displayed an exciting brand of newjack soul music during a recent performance at suburban Baltimore’s Maryland Live Casino Events Center. (Timothy Cox Photo).
As opening act, Tresvant entered the stage clad in a cool suit with a white jacket and matching white button-down shirt with accenting sequined effects.
In between certain songs he’d change hat styles from a silvery-white baseball cap to a cool stingy-brim, old-school dressy top-piece. His external look was particularly suave on this seasonably temperate early-fall evening of about 65-degrees.
Tresvant wasted no time in satisfying the mostly-female audience comprised of an age-range from mid-40s to mid-50s. Their screams mimicked a generation past, when most were
Johnny G and Ralph T pulled out the stops and provided a dual performance that showed why they remain two 1990s icons who can still attract fans on a major level. (Timothy Cox Photo)
Tresvant’s fans when he headed the then-adolescent boy band, New Edition of Boston’s Orchard Park housing projects in the Roxbury section of town.
Ralph quickly delved into snippets of his series of solo hit tunes, including his biggest hit “Sensitivity,” along with “Do What I Gotta Do” and “Stone Cold Gentleman.” Ralph has cooly morphed from his kiddy style into a thin, debonair dude – with just enough swagger to make thug-looking guys in the audience take notice too.
Ralph T pulled out the stops and provided a unique performance that showed his development as a solo act, and apparent appeal as a ladies’ man. (Timothy Cox Photo).
Backed by a tight four-piece live rhythm section, interestingly, both Ralph and Johnny shared the backline band setup. Led by musical director Reggie “Wizard” Jones hailing from the Pittsburgh suburb of Aliquippa, Pa., the band was effectively driven by Atlanta-based drummer Melvin “Melly Mel” Baldwin, whose force and funk-laden poly-rhythms laid-down the impactful grooves as required for each singer’s various compositions. Melly Mel is a veteran showman, who recently toured with Justin Bieber, but is also well-known for leading rhythm sections during New Edition tours in their past 10 years. This writer recalls Jones as a teen prodigy with his first band, Rare Experience of Quiptown fame. Jones is also a former MD for Bieber’s tours. Other band members are Aaron Clay, bass guitar and Tomi Martin, lead/rhythm guitar. Gill’s performance was complemented by three outstanding, sexy dancers, namely, Tenile Jimenez, Britany Brown and Ashley Askins. The ladies performed moves straight from ‘90-based hip-hop video scenes, embellished with a new-millennium flair.
After Ralph tantalized the ladies for nearly 45-minutes, a fifteen minute set-break led to Gill’s onstage explosion to more roars and screams. Understandably, Gill served as headliner on this evening, mainly because he was a solo act prior to joining the NE boys in late 1987, when it was ironically then rumored that Tresvant was leaving the NE fold for solo stardom.
Gill performed all of his singular hits away from NE, including “Fair Weather Friend, “Rub You The Right Way,” “Wrap My Body Tight,” and his signature hit, “My, My, My” from 1990. The DC native followed up his smokin set with fan-favorites ballads like “Boys To Men,” “Can You Stand The Rain,” “Let’s Get The Mood Right” and “My Body, Your Body” the LSG hit single with Keith Sweat and the late Gerald Levert. Both Gill and Tresvant set the stage on fire, and provided an all-out party scene that was totally unexpected on this particular evening.
Gill displayed his veteran showmanship as a complete dancer and more than simply a standup balladeer – his initial image during this early years as a solo performer. His gospel background is still very apparent throughout his show however, given that he’s an original member of a gospel group featuring himself and his three biological Brothers – the Gospel Wings of Faith, of Washington, DC. At times, it felt as if he was a gospel preacher delivering, in this case, the “Love” word. It’s also now obvious that 30-years with NE has fully developed Gill’s choreographic tendencies to the point where he’s now considered a sho-nuff dancing man, who can move and groove with the best of ’em. Afterall, hanging out with Ronnie Devoe and Ricky Bell all these years has had full impact on his ability to become a dancin’ machine.
The Gill-Tresvant show is very entertaining, and has a throw-back, seventies flavor, reminiscent of Teddy Pendergrass when Gill throws out Teddy Bears to his adoring lady fans. Pendergrass was nicknamed “Teddy Bear” and also tossed toy bears to his fans in the mid-1970s. Tresvant returned to the stage to help his partner throw long-stemmed red roses to the audience, very reflective of Al Green or Marvin Gaye – during their ’70s heydays. And, the audience highly approved of Gill’s cover of Frankie Beverly and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” soul anthem. In fact, should Frankie B. ever retire, I suggest that Johnny Gill carry on the Maze tradition – he’d be a perfect replacement for Frankie B., as Maze Featuring Johnny Gill. The band also kicked off the evening with a smooth version of Heat Wave’s 1978 anthem “Boogie Nights” intro and later, played an interlude guitar riff cover from the Ohio Players’ 1974 “Fire” soundtrack.
While rumors flowed throughout the venue stating that Gill and Tresvant has quit New Edition, both Marvin and Loretta McIntyre — Gill and Tresvant’s Atlanta-based management, along with Brooke Payne, NE’s longterm Boston-based manager – all disputed the rumors, adding that the group remains intact, to the delight of NE’s longtime fan-base.
Ironically, less than an hour from Maryland Live Casino, on the following night, Ronnie Devoe, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins were performing as a new group called RBRM, in Fairfax,Virginia on the George Mason University campus.
NE’s spin-off acts including Bobby Brown, Bell Biv Devoe, Gill-Tresvant and RBRM – results in a wonderful marketing ploy for the New Edition corporation, as a whole. Unlike their predecessors such as The Temptations, Dells, Stylistics and others – these spin-offs provide NE members another income stream for now and for the future – when the NE tour continues, they’ll have even more additional acts within the NE family fold to feature. Definitely a great business decision.
But they’re not the first to produce such spinoffs. James Brown’s umbrella production featured Lynn Collins, Maceo & The Macks, and Fred Wesley and The JBs; George Clinton’s army featured Bootsy’s Rubber Band, the Horny Horns and the Parlets; Earth Wind & Fire featured Philip Bailey, the Pockets, Deniece Williams and The Emotions under Charles Stepney’s and Maurice White’s Kalimba Productions.
When the show concluded at Maryland Live, the lights were turned on, and so were the ladies; to a point where they just wouldn’t leave the stage area!
But when Ralph returned to the stage, joyful screams abound, as he offered hugs, kisses, autographs and selfie cell phone photos.
Nika White, traveled from Southeast DC to collect a Teddy Bear from Johnny G. “I’ve been a New Edition fan for a long time,” said the 40ish mother of two.
JaQuetta Washington displayed her cell phone case, which shows a photo of her with all six NE members at a recent concert. “Oh, I really cherish this picture,” said the Baltimore resident.
And based on the reaction of others who wore New Edition T-shirts, they weren’t the only ladies who were impressed with the two NE Heart-Breakers.
Fans of all ages, clamour to capture close-up cell phone video footage, long-stem roses and Teddy Bears from Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
Nika White of Southeast Washington, DC, displays the Teddy Bear she caught after Johnny Gill tossed several from the stage. Also, notice her selfie photo with Ralph T. Ms. White is a life-long fan of New Edition. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
Nika White of Southeast Washington, DC, shares a close-up view of her cherished Johnny Gill Teddy Bear. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
Johnny Gill displayed his total musicianship on the congas and timbales throughout his performance. He also plays guitar and keyboards. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
Johnny G. greets several of his adoring fans, while never missing a vocal note. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
In concert with the live band, and backup dancers, Johnny G. and Ralph T. put on a performance not many expected would be so powerfully energetic and party-like. The mood was full of fun, love and happiness throughout the entire evening. (Photo by Timothy Cox)
Johnny Gill’s early beginnings as a PK, became obvious throughout his performance – as he provided gospel-like shouts, reminiscent of his spiritual upbringing in Southeast DC with the Wings of Faith church group featuring the Gill Brothers. (Photo by Timothy Cox).
After nearly three hours of power-packed, all-out throw-back, ‘90s-style newjack soul, Ralph T and Johnny G, and entourage, bid adieu to their fans at the newly-opened Maryland Live Events Center. (Photo by Timothy Cox)