NEW YORK — Over the weekend, R&B was present as the genre’s elder statesmen, the Isley Brothers, brought their clan to the city. Not to be outdone, Hollywood heartthrob Tyrese drew a plethora of women to support his first profession: singing.
If fans of Mr. Biggs didn’t know, Ron Isley is not in the big house — at least, not yet. The singer, who in 2006 was sentenced to serve more than three years in federal prison for tax evasion, has not started serving his time. He’s out on bail appealing his conviction and is still performing, which is what he’s done for most of his 66 years.
The Isley Brothers held court in Harlem on Friday night — not at the Apollo, but at the United Palace Theater, which is probably most popular for being the home of the Reverend Ike’s Sunday service. While Ron Isley came onstage in his swanky outfit of an all-red overcoat with matching shirt, fedora and dress pants, his brother Ernie, the band’s guitar player and writer of many of its classics, stuck to a more rock and roll look with white jeans, a bandanna tied around his thigh and a red doo-rag.
With a catalog as deep as the Isleys’, Ron had no problem finding a hit record to sing. Toward the beginning of his set, he started with selections such as “Footsteps in the Dark” and “The Pride.”
Later in the night, Ron brought out his brother Rudolph — who left the Isleys almost two decades ago to become a minister — for their “biggest song ever,” “Shout.” Ron Isley then turned the attention to his wife, who was the group’s lone backup singer. The two sang “(At Your Best) You Are Love.” “You’re a positive, motivating force within my life/ Should you ever feel the need to wonder why/ Let me know, let me know,” they sang.
Then Ron took it from sentimental to sexy. “I’m gonna take my clothes off,” he said before breaking into “In Between the Sheets.” “Not all of them, though. Just some.” His onstage stripping was limited to untucking his shirt.
After a quick wardrobe change, Ron came back out, this time wearing a black tuxedo. The concert became theatrical as he performed “Contagious,” which chronicles him catching R. Kelly cheating with his woman. Kelly was not there, but the Isleys did have an actor onstage acting out the King of R&B’s parts while Ron sang his dialogue. “Now don’t I know you from somewhere a long time ago?” Isley sang. “No, no, I don’t think so,” the actor lip-synced. “Yeah, I feel I know you, brother, very well,” Isley continued later. “Now I think y’all better leave this place/ ‘Cause I’m about to catch a case.”
The Isley family affair turned its direction toward the children right before saying goodnight. Ron, now wearing a black smoking jacket, brought out three of his grandchildren as well as his 4-month-old son during “For the Love of You.”
On Saturday night, the R&B flavor continued just minutes away from Harlem, at the Paradise Theater in the Bronx. Unlike the Isleys, this show was definitely for the youth. Teenagers Young B and DJ Webstar started off the night with a dance frenzy, bringing their “Chicken Noodle Soup” live to the stage.
Then it was Trey Songz’s turn to light up the night. The singer’s set was strictly for the ladies, as he musically wined and dined them, starting with new selections like his current single, “Wonder Woman,” then working his way through songs from his latest LP, I Gotta Make It. His closer, “Gotta Go,” was done without a shirt on, of course, and the ladies in the front row reached up to grab any part of him they could get a paw on.
Tyrese, backed by a live band, began his set by pulling from his guest appearances and soundtrack cameos. “What do you like?/ A whole lot of foreplay before we get it started,” he sang from Da Brat’s “What’chu Like,” coming out clad in jeans and a ball cap that were both bedazzled.
“Every time I try to leave, something keeps pulling me back,” he sang a few minutes later, doing his hook from Chingy’s “Pullin’ Me Back.” “Telling me I need you in my life/ Every time I try to go, something keeps telling me that/ Everything’s gonna be all right.”
Tyrese’s set took an acoustic turn as a guitar player sat on a stool and played while ‘Rese — fresh from a quick change and wearing a white suit (also bedazzled) — sat down and sang some of his ballads, such as “Lately.”
“Sweet Lady” was the closer, keeping the women on their feet. “Sweet lady, would you be my/ Sweet love for a lifetime,” he crooned. “I’ll be there when you need me/ Just call and receive me.”
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.