TRENTON, New Jersey — For once, Omarion is talking to a girl and she's not falling at his feet.
"What's your favorite song?" O, wearing a white tee and jeans, asks her. "Bmm bmm bmm touch! Bmm bmm bmm touch!"
The girl looks at him with a near-blank stare, unaffected by his charm. This girl is too young. She's little Lauren, the 3-year-old niece of one his dancers, Danielle (who plays the sexy lead in the "Touch" video), and she's isn't going to croon one note for O.
"I'm not going to sing for you," she informs him. "I only sing for Mommy."
"Why?" O continues, playing along. "See, I had some candy for you."
"No," she retorts. "I only sing for Mommy."
Sure enough, when O walks away smiling, Lauren puts her hands on her hips, begins swaying from side to side and sings for her mother: "Bmm bmm bmm touch! Bmm bmm bmm touch!"
Pretty soon, O himself would be singing the song — onstage. On Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning (July 20), O, Bow Wow and Marques Houston were at the Sovereign Bank Arena practicing for the opening of their Scream Tour IV: The HeartThrobs (see "Bow Wow, Omarion Roll Out Scream IV Summer Dates"), which also features Bobby Valentino and guests B5 and Pretty Ricky (see "Bow Wow Brings Pretty Ricky On Tour To Keep Girls Screaming"). On Tuesday, though, the stage belonged to O, Bow and MH, who did extensive rehearsals replete with pyrotechnics.
"Tonight will definitely be the test of stamina," says Bow, sitting on his tour bus, where he's spread out a customized rug embroidered with his name and dog prints.
"We been rehearsing for the past four days on the stage, just getting everything together, the staging, the choreography," MH — who promises a very big surprise when he performs "Naked" — describes outside his dressing room. "Chris [Stokes] is directing both shows, making sure we in place."
Later, MH is rolling around the main area of the arena on a scooter, the preferred mode of transport for the Bow, O and MH camps. Ciara — who came to show support for her boyfriend and wore a Bow tee, dark fitted cap, boots and jeans — stands several rows back from the stage, talking and looking on with Stokes. Bow, in the meantime, is onstage next to one of his spinners, listening through headphones to Jay-Z's verses from the song "Best of Both Worlds." O sits closer to the stage with Young Rome and his security personnel till his partner calls him.
"O, we 'bout to do back-to-back right now," Bow says. "The whole show right now."
"Oh sh--," O answers.
While the singer makes his way to the stage, Bow takes the opportunity to rib him some. "Yo, O, is this how you do it?" he asks, slightly bent over, with his hands somewhat in front of him. When Bow holds his position but starts kicking his leg as if he was on a scooter, O finally breaks out laughing.
The stage is pretty simple, with a huge staircase leading up to a platform, two walls of lights behind the steps and a runway that goes into the crowd for an up-close-and-personal effect. There's more to be added to the set in the coming days, but for the first show, they'll rock with what they have.
"It's crazy," Bow later says of the set. "It's a big stage, and when you get on it, there is so much room. We have more parts of the set, [but] ... now that the stage is up, they won't fit in. We have these wings we get on and go over the crowd. We couldn't use them on the first show."
|Photos: Check out pictures of Bow Wow, Omarion and Marques Houston during rehearsal |
Judging from the rehearsal, the headliners' set is loaded with the type of regalia you would expect from heartthrobs. O and Bow come out together on top of the two risers. (Insert screams here; there'll be plenty on Wednesday night when the show kicks off here.) The duo walk down the staircase carrying two duffle bags and finally get to the main stage, where two curtains, placed several feet away from each other, await the performers. They do a quick change, their silhouettes visible, and in a matter of seconds, they reveal themselves in new outfits, posing back-to-back in the center of the stage.
R. Kelly's recorded voice floods the arena: "Welcome to the best of both worlds."
"I pull up with the big boy truck, n---a big boy drop/ We be the only big boys that the big boys watch," Bow raps, getting his Jigga impression down to a T. "Sing to 'em, O."
"Bessssst of boooooth worlds ohhhhh!" O sings on the chorus.
"I got a million on that boy singin' whatever on the flow/ Y'all got cheddar to blow, whatever, let a n---a know, O!" Bow continues.
"Bessssst of boooooth worlds ohhhhh!" O roars.
While O has no problem with R.'s chorus, he'll have to study the verses.
"This is for the somethin' somethin' somethin' somethin' somethin'," O sings, laughing with Bow. "Uh huh, yeah."
"I'm the best of my world in what I do, the genre of music," Bow later explains. "O is the best as far as his genre. I feel like that, the fans feel the same way. It is the best of both worlds. That's why we decided to pay tribute to Hov and Kells. It makes sense. I did not change one line of Hov's lyrics. You'll get a kick out of it once you see it with the pyro and everything."
Exactly like Jay and R. did for their doomed Best of Both Worlds tour (see "Jay-Z, R. Kelly Part Ways As Best Of Both Worlds Tour Collapses"), Bow and O have one long, nonstop program consisting of several short sets. O is always accompanied by his dancers, which can number as high as four guys and two girls. He's showing no signs of missing his group B2K during his first major outing as a solo artist.
There are moments during the rehearsal where he gets as salacious as a young Bobby Brown, humping one of his dancers during "Slow Dancin'," but O's greatest strength is his fluid dancing skills. He draws comparisons to masters like Usher and Michael Jackson, but during numbers such as "Drop That Heater" and "I'm Tryna," he puts his own stank on it, coming up with a few original moves. Plus, to satisfy the B2K fans, he's performing a few songs by his former group.
His small stature aside, you'd never know Bow is just 18. Even without the girls in the audience, Bow showed his confidence and control of the stage, rapping about being able to pull in women 35 years old. There's a lot of records from his new Wanted album on the playlist (see "Most Wanted: Teary-Eyed Fans Mob Bow Wow In NY"), but he has all the favorite familiars up his sleeve as well. For the most part, his only backing is his new hypeman, Khleo Thomas, and two DJs, Shakim and Jus. You definitely have to pay attention, because Bow runs across the stage and doesn't stand still for too long.
The real dynamic in Scream IV, however, is shaping up to be when Bow and O are onstage together. The finale is no surprise: a performance of their joint-venture record, "Let Me Hold You." Eventually there's a tribute to Luther Vandross, after which Bow and O take the stage for one last time, playing to the ladies.
"I'mma tell you, this is definitely going to be something that's unforgettable," O, who is expecting older women as well as young ladies to come out to the shows, promises. "This is Scream IV. I started on the first Scream tour, and we're really trying to build this name up and make sure we have killer performances. You got all the young fellas on the charts and they doing they thing onstage, too."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.