Dust off those “I Love Ralph” and “Ronnie Is So Sexy” T-shirts — New Edition are reuniting. An expanded lineup featuring the group’s six members — Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant and Johnny Gill — will be hitting the road for an extensive tour that is planned to last at least two months. The catch: The tour won’t happen until 2008.
The announcement was made by Bivins onstage in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday, after Brown performed a couple of numbers with Bell Biv DeVoe.
The group has reunited in various forms before: All six for the 1996 LP Home Again and its troubled ensuing tour (not all six members were still in the group at the tour’s end) and, minus Brown, for the Diddy-helmed One Love in 2004 (see “One Love But Two Sounds: Classic New Edition And ’04 BBD Flow” ). In recent months, various members have been performing shows and making sporadic appearances, including on BET’s 25th anniversary show.
On Sunday, at an R&B show billed “Body & Soul” at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, Brown — who has also been touring solo (see “Ladies’ Man Reborn: Bobby Brown Back In Shape At Atlantic City Gig” ) — jumped onstage twice to rapturous applause, once with Bell Biv DeVoe and once by himself.
“Your brother is here!” Brown said from the backstage while BBD performed. The group’s lead singer Ricky Bell announced he was sick and was performing against doctor’s advice. Although he did not disclose his ailment, it seemed like he was hampered by the flu because he could barely sing — the usually stellar crooner sounded more like the raspy Young Jeezy than he did himself. Brown joined the group and helped with lead vocals during “When Will I See You Smile Again?” and BBD’s “Poison.”
Brown returned later for a very brief solo set, wearing an all-black suit with an orange dress shirt. He tore into “Every Little Step,” then “Roni,” and when the music for “My Prerogative” came on, he tore open his shirt, sending buttons flying into the front row. He performed the song bare-chested, with his tie still around his neck and a fur coat on.
New Edition aren’t the only R&B artists on the comeback trail: Keith Sweat, Guy and En Vogue also performed at “Body & Soul.” Guy announced onstage that they will have a new LP out this year and it looks like En Vogue will be following suit: The Funky Divas performed a brand-new single at the show. For the most part, all of the “Body and Soul” performers look the same as they did a decade ago, and their voices stand the test of time well.
On a related note, SWV were not at “Body & Soul” but have been performing dates with Keith Sweat and Guy. They also have plans to release new material this year: an SWV LP and a solo gospel project from group member Coko.