Brown was performing with New Edition in Mississippi. Upon hearing the news of Houston's passing, TMZ.com reported that he was comforted by his bandmates backstage at Southaven's Landers Center.
The Associated Press says members of the R&B act took to the stage without him and told the crowd, "This one is for Whitney." Brown soon made his way onstage to join them and was met with a standing ovation.
An emotional Brown spoke about Houston to the near-capacity crowd. "First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all," he reportedly said. "Second, I would like to say, 'I love you Whitney.' The hardest thing for me to do is come on this stage." Brown told the fans that their support for New Edition over the years was the only thing that allowed him to get through the show.
Us magazine reports that the audience appeared to be willing him through a performance of New Edition's 1996 single "Hit Me Off" with their applause.
A concertgoer told Us that Brown, who was married to Houston for almost 15 years, broke down onstage again while performing his solo hit "Roni" and asked the audience to sing along. During the intermission, the early Houston hit "You Give Good Love" played over the Landers Center's sound system.
The AP reported that New Edition performed 10 songs over more than an hour. As the concert wound down, Brown could not hold back the tears. As his voice cracked during one of the final numbers, he waved to fans and walked off the stage.
Brown, who had a tumultuous marriage with Houston before their split, was not available to talk to the media either before or after the performance. Todd Mastry, the executive director of the Landers Center, was asked by reporters about the mood backstage before the show. "It's what you would expect it to be when something like this happens," Mastry said. "Respectful."
Brown later released a statement. "I am deeply saddened at the passing of my ex-wife, Whitney Houston," said Brown. "At this time, we ask for privacy, especially for my daughter, Bobbi- Kristina. I appreciate all of the condolences that have been directed towards my family and I at this most difficult time."
While Brown was dealing with his grief in the South, artists across the country paid tribute to Houston, with stars like Mariah Carey and Rihanna taking to Twitter while Alicia Keys, Clive Davis, LL Cool J and Tony Bennett toasted the late star at several pre-Grammy parties in Los Angeles.
MTV News' Sway and James Montgomery will be live from the Grammys red carpet tonight starting at 5 p.m. ET to get reactions from music's biggest stars on the death of Whitney Houston. Watch reactions and remembrances at MTV.com. Share your condolences with Whitney's family and friends on our Facebook page.