ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — Fifteen years ago, Bobby Brown could make 20,000 women sweat out their perms just by jumping on the stage and pretending to make love to it. This is the same man who was arrested back in the day because police deemed a concert of his too risqué.
At the height of his career, B. Brown was the most magnetic performer in R&B. When Whitney calls him the “original king,” she’s not lying. He was bigger than Usher and R. Kelly are now, selling close to 10 million copies of his 1988 classic, Don’t Be Cruel.
There were artists of Bobby’s generation who could out-sing him, like Aaron Hall and Gerald LeVert, but it wasn’t only his vocals that made him so great. It was the whole package: clothes, dance moves, ladies’ man reputation, rebel attitude, history with New Edition and, of course, music.
For too long, though — way too long — it’s looked like Bobby Brown’s music career is practically over. He hasn’t released an album since 1997′s flop, Forever, and 95 percent of the headlines he’s made in the past decade have revolved around his battles with the police.
Then poof — a few months ago he and Whitney went right back into the spotlight with the Bravo reality show “Being Bobby Brown” (see “Love, Potty Talk Go Hand-In-Hand On Bobby Brown’s TV Show” ). The show was instantly addictive, with Whitney outbursts like “Hell to the nah” and “I’m not doing this today” becoming popular catchphrases with their fans.
With Bob having everyone’s attention once again, he’s actually been on the road playing a handful of dates. He wound up in Atlantic City on Thursday night performing at the newest House of Blues at the Showboat casino.
Most of the fans looked to be 25 years old or better. And they remembered the times, no doubt. They remembered Bobby selling out Giants Stadium as part of the Budweiser Superfest. They remembered doing the running man in front of their TV sets when the video for his “Ghostbusters II” theme, “On Our Own,” used to come on. They also remembered that on “Being Bobby Brown,” Bobby had put on a lot of weight and definitely did not look like the guy girls would beg to take off his pants.
“You gotta be loud,” Brown’s voice boomed from backstage as the show began.
“B, B, B, B-Unit!” he continued to yell.
As Bobby came out in his all-white suit and matching hat, he really looked like the old Bobby. He was trim, clean and had a look in his eye that he was ready to reclaim the throne.
The music was familiar from the start.
As Bobby sang one of his biggest records, “Don’t Be Cruel,” everyone began applauding. “Girl, the only thing that matters in my life is that I’m down for you and treat you right.”
His voice didn’t sound too far off from what it was like in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “Girl, I bust my ass for you from 9 to 5,” he continued in the next verse, holding his own booty for emphasis, which made the audience chuckle.
Brown segued into “Get Away” and loosened his tie. “Strip, Bobby, strip!” one young lady yelled out. He finally opened his shirt and revealed that, indeed, the suit jacket was not hiding fat. Brown is back in shape.
He rubbed his hands down his stomach and smiled to the crowd: “I ain’t as fat as I was on ‘Being Bobby Brown,’ am I?”
During “Rock Wit’Cha,” Brown took it back to ’89, ad-libbing lines like “Say Bobby!/ Sometimes I just wanna touch myself.” And of course, he had to dip it low, jumping on the floor and humping the ground in sync with the drummer’s beats.
Brown once again played to the ladies for arguably his most beloved balled, “Roni.”
“The truth about a Roni, she’s always on the phone/ Talking to her homeboy, wishing they were home alone.”
“You know what they gonna be, right?” he yelled to the audience — some of whom were actually slow-dancing with their dates — and then pumped his pelvis in case they were clueless.
One difference between Bobby today and Bobby yesterday is that he doesn’t do the elaborate choreography anymore. He didn’t even have backup dancers — just two backup singers and a band. He introduced a clique of MCs and singers called the Brown Bombers, which consisted of his oldest son and his nephews. He also let a couple of his fans come onstage and show him their moves.
“This is my house tonight,” Bobby said, scolding one of the bouncers who said he could not bring anyone onstage with him. “Don’t tell me I can’t bring people on my stage. This is not the House of Blues tonight; this is the House of Brown.”
The first girl he brought onstage — who looked to be a young teenager — came up and started doing the mono, and Bob playfully tried to follow. A woman then came up behind Bobby, jumped on the floor and grabbed his ankles. A shocked Bobby turned around, at which point the woman got up and tried to grind on him.
“You’re scaring me,” Bobby told her. “Really, you’re scaring me. Don’t have my wife come out here.”
Brown’s security guard then escorted the woman away.
When the stage was cleared, Bobby began “Every Little Step” but took awhile to get to the first verse because he had started signing autographs and telling fans to take pictures of him.
Then he told the crowd he only had three minutes left in the show, but followed by saying it was his prerogative if he wanted to stay a little later. This, of course, led into his most popular record, “My Prerogative,” the night’s closer at just about the two-hour mark.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.