To say that American smooth crooners Boyz II Men have had a successful career in music would be quite an understatement. The vocal trio have racked up a staggering 60 million record sales and rising and achieved more than most acts in the business and at twenty years the group are still going strong.
Emerging from the streets of Philadelphia in the early nineties, Boyz II Men began somewhat of a revolution in RnB that helped pave the way for many of today’s successful artists. They quickly established themselves, then a foursome, with hits that would help carve the soundtrack to millions of peoples lives. Hits like End Of The Road and I’ll Make Love To You cemented Boyz II Men’s A-list status internationally and both songs spent a record breaking number of week in the top spot on US charts. The group are also behind the most successful number one of the nineties, One Sweet Day, where they found themselves duetting with global superstar Mariah Carey on a track that would see them sitting at number one for an astonishing 16 weeks, the longest running US number one song in history.
Over the past 10 years the lights have gradually faded on Boyz II Men’s career. Unfortunately the group no longer release such in demand recordings as their earlier studio albums like II and Evolution proved to be. Despite this the three remaining members of Boyz II Men, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman, are still going strong and in 2011 the group hit a milestone in their career – twenty years together. To mark the occasion the group released a brand new record entitled Twenty. Consisting of two discs, the first full of new material and the second a collection of reworked and re-recorded classics, Twenty was a celebration of all that the collective have achieved in their time together and a gift to the groups fans for being so loyal over such a lengthy period of time.
To coincide with the release of Twenty the boys took to the road on a tour that has seen them perform at venues the world over and this the weekend it was the UK’s turn.
After a successful stop over in Brighton, Boyz II Men arrived in London to perform at Brixton’s O2 academy. By the time we had arrived at the venue the crowd were already fairly frenzied having been warmed up by a DJ who was churning out a range of nineties RnB classics to the crowd giving the evening an early nostalgic glazing.
At just past 9pm the lights dimmed and the leading men of the evening came running on stage to a deafening welcome. Dressed smartly in white shirts paired with black waistcoats the trio dove straight into their set beginning with the latest records opening track, Believe. The performance was upbeat and infectious as the threesome bounced around full of energy and enthusiasm and wanting to give it their all.
It wasn’t long before the hits began to emerge as On Bended Knee took the limelight and gave the fans exactly what they came to see. As soon as the piano intro ushered the track in the venue erupted as the group offered one of their classics with perfection while storm clouds rolled on the screen that was cast behind the trio. Vocally the track couldn’t have been stronger particularly in Wanya’s case who vocals ripped through the venue unlike anything I have ever heard in my time as a gig-goer.
Having such loyal fans couldn’t have been more obvious at last nights performance. Following the groups delivery of On Bended Knee Shawn commented on the volume of the crowd who had traveled far and wide to see their idols hilariously referring to the crowd as being “too loud” and explaining that they were unable to hear the music from their earpieces which got the crowd chanting along with respect. After saying that he had never encountered an audience quite so loud he then encouraged the crowd to “keep up the good work” which received an even more rapturous applause.
Further classics then followed with Please Don’t Go and the beautifully harmonized Four Seasons of Loneliness before the latest records lead single, More Than You’ll Ever Know, was offered to the crowd with gusto followed by a plugging of the groups Twenty album by the always chatty Stockman who took the honors of addressing the crowd intently throughout the first third of the concert, something that seemed shared between the trio throughout the performance in equal parts.
Being such a fundamental clonk in the Motown machine the group offered a medley of hits that have been recorded by some of the genre’s greats while paying homage to the genre that has been such a rich inspiration to what Boyz II Men have achieved in their twenty years. The medley merged together three giants of the genre to perfection; Money (That’s What I Want), a track originally record in 1960 by Barrett Strong and two Four Tops classics – the uptempo 1965 hit It’s The Same Old Song and the Four Tops signature hit Reach Out (I’ll Be There). The medley got the crowd worked up as the trio showed that they still had it in the moves department. The dance routines and how Boyz II Men performed throughout the concert took me completely by surprise. Being the first time seeing Boyz II Men I went to the gig thinking that twenty years may have had some affect on the bands moves however I couldn’t have been more wrong. All three, particularly Wanya, gyrated and swung around that stage like there was no tomorrow and proved that they still have the slickness and choreographed precision that they had twenty years ago and all without breaking a sweat.
To cool the temperatures of the crowd we were offered a filling of balladry from the group beginning with a newly Babyface penned track from the latest record, One More Dance which was followed up by a few of the groups classics including Pass You By and the gorgeous Water Runs Dry before one of the trio’s signature hits came out of hiding.
Clutching a bouquet of red roses the opening bars of I’ll Make Love To You began to play and the crowd exploded with excitement as the group belted out one of music’s most iconic numbers while plucking roses from their bundles and passing them to front row members of the crowd. Harmonizing is one of the things that Boyz II Men are famous for and the precision with that on this number was heard in all its glory as they worked up the crowd.
Coming to the end of the performance the band performed a rendition of the Take That classic, Back For Good. As if Gary Barlow needed a further cash lining to his pockets the trio commented on the track being performed equally back in the mid nineties to their own tracks and so as a tribute to that they offered a stunning RnB version of the number which the crowd lapped up before they dove into the highlight number of the set, End of the Road. The track, which solidified Boyz II Men into the hearts of music lovers back in 1992 as the track that went on to become both Boyz II Men and Motown’s most successful single was performed with ease and heart and the performance of the song last night gave just cause to those titles. Vocally strong and passionately performed the closing number of the set was drenched in nineties nostalgia and had the 3,700 strong crowd swaying along to the group as they paced casually around the stage working off each others vocals with crisp perfection before leaving the stage.
Emerging a few minutes later to the crowds thunderous applause they offered us a brief encore that included both old and new including new track One Up For Love and ended where it all began, with the groups debut hit, Motownphilly, capping the evenings entertainment off perfectly.
After last nights performance of three of music’s most gifted vocalists there is no doubt that Boyz II Men have still got what it takes to compete in today’s market. They just don’t make bands like Boyz II Men anymore and that is a real shame. The night was a treat whether you were a fan of Boyz II Men or were dragged along by one of the many parents in the crowd. Given the stamina and vocal abilities that all three members still hold there is no doubt in our minds that Boyz II Men are going to be around for a lot longer still.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
Brendon manages and coordinates the amazing team of writers on RenownedForSound.com who are based in the UK, the U.S and Australia.