It was the same old story for New Edition. The stars showed up dressed to kill. They sang. They danced. And the ladies went wild.
The fact that the members of this legendary "boy band" are now all in their 40s didn't seem to matter all that much on Saturday at Oracle Arena.
New Edition circa 2012 -- much like the version that released the debut album "Candy Girl" in 1983 -- is certainly a crowd pleaser. The band was able to conjure up enough interesting dance routines, solid pop/R&B tunes and rich nostalgia to charm fans even during a show fraught with problems.
Oakland's stop on New Edition's 30th anniversary tour -- which also hits the Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Monday -- had its share of perplexing moments that could've derailed the concert. Yet, New Edition was mostly able to rise above the difficulties and show its fans a good time -- even after the show got off to one of the weirdest starts in memory.
The printed showtime was 9 p.m. and opening act Tony Toni Tone was nowhere to be found. Finally, the Oakland troupe showed up around 10 p.m. and performed two songs. The whole thing lasted some 10 minutes, leaving the crowd justifiably outraged. The result was something I never thought I'd witness: Tony Toni Tone getting booed lustily by the band's hometown fans after short, utterly discombobulated performance.
It was up to New Edition to soothe the disgruntled crowd. Yet, something seemed missing as the headliners
The onetime husband of Whitney Houston was nowhere to be seen as the rest of the vocal troupe -- Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill -- rolled through the opening numbers. He finally appeared a few songs later, putting to rest the fears that Brown, who got married to Alicia Etheredge in Hawaii last week, might be a no-show.
With Brown in the fold, the singers -- dressed in matching silver coats over black pants and button-up vests -- immediately raced through some delightful synchronized dance moves as they revisited "Jealous Girl" and other fan favorites.
The harmonies sounded strong throughout the evening, but the lead vocals varied greatly in quality. The years haven't been kind to Brown's voice, which has grown far too husky for much of the New Edition songbook, yet he makes up for it with intensity and star power. Gill — who joined New Edition in time for 1988's "Heart Break," after Brown left the band in 1985 -- is a much more powerful vocalist, but his leads can go on far too long.
The best songs of the night were the band's initial hits -- "Popcorn Love," "Candy Girl" and "Mr. Telephone Man" -- all of which rank among the top boy-band tunes of all time. The group also devoted perhaps too much time to the members' solo material and outside projects. The show even closed with a Bell Biv Devoe number ("Poison"). I realize that Bell Biv Devoe was a spinoff of New Edition, but, come on, who ever heard of closing a big anniversary show by playing another act's hit?
Still, the evening was a success for New Edition. Let's hope that the band reaches even greater heights when it performs Monday in Saratoga.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.
new edition in concert
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Where: The Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, Saratoga
Tickets: $59.50-$139.50; www.mountainwinery.com.
Online: To see a slide show of Saturday's concert, go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.