New Edition Warm Up For Anniversary With Family Reunion

'You're New Edition family,' Michael Bivins tells hometown crowd.

BOSTON — Judging by their ecstatic homecoming on Sunday, New
Edition are primed, pumped and ready for next year’s 20th anniversary

“No more ’fans,’ ” Michael Bivins told the FleetBoston Pavilion crowd of
about 3,000, which remained on its feet throughout the 90-minute set on this
anniversary warm-up tour. “Now you’re New Edition family.”

There was plenty of family already on hand, as the Roxbury-bred singers gave
shout-outs to their aunts and uncles. But others in the diverse if largely
30-something audience felt their own measure of closeness (including P.
Diddy, who made a surprise cameo to introduce the group).

“I grew up with them,” said former Roxbury resident Jaque Furtado, 37, of
Jamaica Plain. “I’m here to support them. I like their style and their
songs, and they dance well.” Her husband, Roger, 40, added an observation
that was echoed by many in the audience: “They’re the original boy band.”

But boys become men. Nineteen years since New Edition broke out of Roxbury’s
Orchard Park projects, and five years since their last tour, the group (with
Washington, D.C., recruit Johnny Gill still in the fold, but not Bobby
Brown) displayed a maturity that balanced the nostalgic harmonies.

Dressed in loose, snazzy dark outfits that stood out against their simple
white backdrop and five-piece band, the singers exuded confidence and
camaraderie. They launched into opener “Word to the Mutha!” (from early ’90s
side project Bell Biv DeVoe) with enthusiastic steps, and built on a
communal vibe by remaining together onstage through later solo showcases.

Nostalgia was fueled early by a medley of 1983-84 pop-soul hits including
“Candy Girl,” a percolating “Popcorn Love” and crisp “Mr. Telephone Man,”
with Ralph Tresvant taking a smooth vocal lead, as he did on much of the
group’s repertoire. The ballad “Lost in Love” proved awkward when the
singers shared a single, five-spoked microphone stand. But soon they were
back to roving the stage and mixing it up, with Tresvant passing the lead to
Ricky Bell during “Is This the End.”

In a solo-based segment, Bell also tackled “When Will I See You Smile
Again?,” the suave Tresvant crooned “Sensitivity” and Bell, Bivins and
Ronnie DeVoe donned Red Sox caps as they got the crowd grinding and singing
along to “Do Me!”

But Gill stepped from the shadows to virtually steal the show with his R&B
loverman’s tour-de-force treatment of “My, My, My,” working into a lather
with his gruff-voiced exultations and falsetto yodels and whipping off his
shirt to reveal a firmly chiseled chest and nipple rings.

“If It Isn’t Love” capped the show, with Dorchester resident Licia Pitts and
her friends mimicking the singers’ graceful dance gestures. “Coming back
after so long, they were really good,” said Pitts, 31. “Nice energy. But
they needed a dancer to back them.” And she was ready to volunteer.