Bell Biv DeVoe Parties with the Grown Folks at Yoshi's
Better than: The last time we saw BBD (which was pretty darned good)
America typically eats its child stars, or at least chews 'em up and spits 'em out. But after decades together in show business, the members of Bell Biv DeVoe are still polished and compelling performers possessing the verve of newcomers.
Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe, all 43-years-old, first began singing together at age 11 in New Edition and have been recording for 28 years. New Edition was the '80s answer to the Jackson 5, but proved to have more active longevity than the group its members idolized.
With all due respect to Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, and the wayward Bobby Brown, going to see BBD in concert is also like going to see New Edition, since the members perform (or at least dance to) several of that group's big tunes ("Mr. Telephone Man," "Cool It Now," and "Candy Girl") in addition to the saucy BBD jams like "Do Me" and "Something in Your Eyes." At one point, DeVoe asked the crowd if we'd like to see all of New Edition on stage again together, and hinted that it might happen some time around the new year.
Only one song, the recently released, bouncy little number "Hello," was unrecognizable. Instead, most of the hour-long set was punctuated by a room full of amateur backup singers, mostly over 30, happily crooning their hearts out to hits from their childhood. Rather than feeling like a nostalgia act, however, the group's energy while singing and dancing blows away the pace of what's accepted on stage even today.
Backed by a keyboardist, bassist, drummer, and an impressively precise DJ (who cut in snippets of old-school hip-hop riffs and local Bay Area cuts like E-40's "Tell Me When to Go" and Too $hort's "Blow the Whistle,") the group kept the energy level high and the lulls to a mininum. Only a faulty microphone situation stalled the show for a moment, but before that, it was impressive to watch the three members smoothly trade-off between the two working mics.
All three were completely at ease on stage, but DeVoe was the one eliciting lots of laughs throughout, including when he pretended to throw his back out while dancing and repeated his ad lib outro from "Candy Girl" a few times, joking, "I have to do that part a couple times because, back in the day, that was the only damn part I had!" The rapport with the crowd felt natural and genuine.
And because these are consummate crowd pleasers, BBD saved its biggest hit, "Poison," for last, inviting up a motley crew of ladies (and one really enthusiastic dude) to join them in one last round of the Running Man and the Roger Rabbit.
Personal bias: Been unsuccessfully trying to perfect the New Edition choreography for 28 years.
Random detail: The stage was too small to bring their female backup dancers along.
By the way: BBD takes the Yoshi's stage again tonight at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.