WANTAGH, New York — With Omarion still several weeks away from delivering his 21 LP and Bow Wow's next project several months off, teens everywhere were left with a gaping hole in their hearts and schedules that has usually been filled by that summertime staple, the Scream Tour. Usually, at this time of year, Omarion and/or Bow are out on tour, leaving hundreds of crying girls in their wake.
Luckily, the music biz doesn't have a shortage of heartthrobs willing to rock the mic. On Saturday at the Jones Beach Theatre in Long Island, the Up Close and Personal Tour drew a few thousand teens who haven't been able to give their voices a full workout all summer. And Cherish, Dem Franchize Boyz, Juelz Santana, Lil Wayne and co-headliners Ne-Yo and Chris Brown gave them plenty to scream about.
While all of the acts got a strong reaction, the crowd was clearly waiting for Brown, who closed the show. When the house lights went down just before he took the stage, the waterworks began. One teary-eyed drama queen, who looked to be about 20 years old, jumped out of her seat and started pacing the aisles like an expectant father outside the delivery room. Head in hands, she trotted back and forth, back and forth, almost burning holes in the soles of her Chuck Taylors.
Suddenly, the Prince of R&B appeared on a riser at the top of the stage, and the young lady — who had made it to her seat — fell to the ground and rolled underneath her chair. An embarrassed friend told her to get up. Almost perfectly in synch with the onstage arrival of Brown's guest performer, Lil Wayne, the girl popped up.
"Young Carter/ I'm harder than them other boys," Wayne rapped, beginning his lines in the "Gimme That" remix. While Wayne rocked on the main stage, Brown, dressed in an all-white suit, black tie, sneakers and white fitted cap, walked down the stairs leading from the riser to meet the song's co-star. Yes, Chris Brown was "in the building."
"The young boy just turned 16 and I got/ Six fours and hot bikes that I rock/ Keep three or four sweeties on my clock/ But all that swinging in that bikini just might convince him."
Even if you've never seen or heard Brown, it should only take a song or two to convince you that this "young boy" is here to stay. Quiet as kept, Brown is within reach of snatching the dance crown from Usher and Omarion. But one thing that may have been overlooked in all of this 17-year-old's entertaining is the fact that he can sing — really sing.
His crooning hypnotized many young women in the audience, particularly on songs like "Say Goodbye" and "Just Fine." On the latter tune, one woman in the audience sang along, holding her arms open wide as if C.B. would jump off the stage and give her a python-like squeeze.
While Brown definitely represents the future of R&B, he took time to pay homage to one legend of the past. The lights onstage went low as Brown sauntered to the mic to pay tribute to Michael Jackson — he even broke out a sequined glove to sing "Rock With You," and for "Billie Jean," he put a black hat on his head, and then threw it. There were leg kicks, spins and of course, the Moonwalk.
Ne-Yo may not be able to dance like Chris Brown, and he doesn't try. But what he lacks in moves, he makes up for in theatrics.
Before he even stepped in front of the crowd, one of Jay-Z's prized signings at Def Jam had his DJ playing snippets of Run-DMC's "Run's House." "We had a whole lot of superstars on this stage here tonight," he said. "But I want y'all to know one thing: This is my house."
Whose house? "Ne-Yo's house," proclaimed the singer.
He too started atop the main stage, slowly revealing himself via the riser. Two female dancers stood next to him, while four other dancers were at the bottom.
Peedi Crakk (a.k.a. Peedi Peedi) came out for "Stay," and then for "When You're Mad," Ne-Yo started off with just two girls, pretending to leave one girl for the other. When the other didn't return his show of affection, he started singing to the other dancer. Later, his whole female crew came out to surround him. They all waved their hands and bobbed their heads in a hostile fashion before pointing the gun sign at him with their fingers. Gunshot sound effects followed, with the singer scurrying off the stage to change outfits.
Later, Remy Ma joined him onstage for "Feels So Good," but the highlight of Ne-Yo's set was definitely "So Sick" — practically the entire audience held up their cell phones, and the lights lit up the venue.
While Wayne and Juelz certainly don't fit the bubblegum mold, they had no problem winning over the young audience. Wayne connected with fans on records like "Hustler Musik" and his closer, "Money on My Mind," even though some of his R-rated lyrics were not ideal for this mostly PG-13 audience. Still, kids were reciting his verses line for line.
His rap accomplice, Juelz Santana, gets love everywhere he goes, but nobody holds him down like a hometown crowd. The Harlem native hit the crowds with hits like "Back Like Cooked Crack" and "Clockwork." Fellow Dip Set member Jim Jones made a surprise appearance and performed some of his own records, including "Certified Gangsta" and the hit "We Fly High."
'Elz's set ended with his little nephew Young Ja onstage helping him rap "Oh Yes" and "There it Go."
The Up Close and Personal Tour runs through October 10 in Seattle.