The R&B of the ’80s and ’90s has reached a point of nostalgia. When comparing the current radio-friendly bump-and-grind music to the sounds of back-in-the day — usually less favorably for people of a certain age, myself included — Keith Sweat’s name will probably come up in the conversation.
Sweat, along with Teddy Riley, Guy and others, helped initiate the New Jack Swing era of R&B. The New Jack sound melded the early dance ethos of hip-hop production with the lothario-fueled groove of soulful R&B. Today’s R&B is a direct descendant, with just about all of the soul removed.
That’s why tours such as the Mixed Music Tour, featuring Johnny Gill, Mint Condition, Ledisi and Sweat can be popular. (Perhaps Sweat and Gill will share the stage with each other to perform songs by LSG, the latter-career group they formed with Gerald LeVert, who is now deceased.) Especially for those who yearn for a time when the sexual overtones in music were less overt and more seductive.
The groove: Sweat has a nasally come-to-me voice (some might say whine) that makes the ladies swoon. He last performed at the arena in 2008 during an uneven concert that also featured Bell Biv Devoe and Tony! Toni! Tone! The mood was dragging by the time he hit the stage. I hope that doesn’t happen again. Ramone Dickerson, an owner of 2 Fat 2 Fly, served Sweat and his tourmates stuffed chicken wings. Sweat was a fan of Sucka Punch, a wing stuffed with jalapenos, bacon and cheddar, Dickerson told us.
The hits: “Make It Last Forever,” “Something Just Ain’t Right,” “Don’t Stop Your Love,” “I’ll Give All My Love to You,” “Keep It Comin’,” “Why Me Baby?,” “Nobody” and “Twisted.”
The groove: Usually when boy bands lose a key member, like New Edition did when Bobby Brown left, the band falters. N.E. was able to sustain success by adding Gill, who brought a mature balladeer’s vibe to the group for hits like “Can You Stand the Rain,” “N.E. Heartbreak” and the appropriately titled “Boys to Men.”
The hits: Solo hits included “Rub You the Right Way” and the throaty and wonderfully repetitive “My, My, My.”
The groove: In terms of performance mode, as openers for Prince last March, the band was in anything but what its name suggests. There were sound difficulties and interruptions, which, in fairness to the band, could have been beyond its control. I was disappointed because Mint Condition sings a love song, “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” that was part of the soundtrack for my first heartbreak. I welcome another chance to hear it live.
The hits: “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes),” “Forever in Your Eyes,” “U Send Me Swingin’” and “What Kind Of Man Would I Be?”
The groove: She isn’t a nostalgia act in terms of age; she’s just a throwback, a jazz-influenced vocalist who has enjoyed popularity with urban adult contemporary listeners, including the Obamas, who have had her perform at The White House.
The hits: “Alright” and “In The Morning.”