It’s not often that I really look forward to an R&B concert where Ne-yo doesn’t feature but this had to be one of them. We arrived early to the Hammersmith Apollo with a view to getting a good place to stand, only the circle was seated, and this turned out to be a good strategy as we were fairly comfortable most of the evening.
No less than three R&B heavyweights in one evening was a tantalizing prospect.
Jon B has to be one of the most underrated and talented artists out there, he’s still best known for his 2001 hit Don’t Talk & 1998’s They Don’t Know but he has done so much good music since then that just hasn’t been promoted well. Jagged Edge are still extremely well-known as an R&B vocal group who have had hits such as Let’s Get Married which showcase their ability to harmonize over a hip-hop beat much like BoyzIIMen used to do. And Joe, who as it turns out was the winner of the i-Tunes awards R&B category this year, is one of the smoothest flawless singers you will ever see on stage. He has hits such as I Wanna Know & Where You At that span decades now and appeal to a wide age range.
As usual with urban music concerts things started a little late with a British act whose name I can’t remember who seemed to do less singing and more working the crowd up with popular R&B tunes. There was also an MC with a Kid’n’Play haircut who attempted to announce the acts although his timing was a little off as the acts never came on straight after he announced them. But all of this is unimportant. On to the acts themselves:
Jon B certainly knows how to make his unique presence felt on stage. Although he is better when seen on his own with a full band, as the first act on he proved that he could be his own band. He was dressed smartly in black with a white blazer and around his neck was a Keytar which he played chords on whilst signing with only help from a backing track and back up singer. He belted out older hits such as Don’t Say and the more recent Ooh So Sexy to a warm reception from the crowd. However it was Don’t Talk that still got the crowd really going.
What frustrates me with Jon B is how under-promoted he is. He is a true talent and has made some brilliant albums in the last few years such as Helpless Romantic that only a few hardcore R&B fans really know about. Still a good classy start to the show and Jon B always puts a lot of energy into his performance which is wonderful to see.
One word can sum up my feelings about Jagged Edge’s performance: Underwhelming. Only three out of the four of them turned up, with no explanation as to why, and once they were on stage they didn’t really put much effort into it. They were all dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts with ridiculous amounts of jewelery around their necks and all they did was walk over the stage signing to a backing track. The crowd enjoyed hearing the hits such as Let’s Get Married, Put A Little Umph In It and Where The Party At but I couldn’t help but feel it was a half-hearted effort by the group. This is the second time I’ve seen them live and both performances have been somewhat lacklustre. I like their music but I don’t think I’ll be paying for a ticket to see them live again.
As the headline act you expect good things and Joe did not disappoint. He is always a class act and he continued that tradition by letting his full band come on and warm up the crowd first. When he did appear it was to cheers from around the room and from the second he hit the stage he was performing to the max. He looked classy in a black silk shirt and smart trousers and with every song he sang he moved in time to the track as well as singing with passion even when the mic failed to work. He gave the audience a good forty-five minutes of hits starting with Where You At and including fan favourites such as All The Things (Your Man Won’t Do), I Wanna Know, What If A Woman & Don’t Wanna Be A Player as well as a medley of tracks where he had collaborated with other artists such as Ride Wit U (with G-Unit), Stutter (with Mystikal) & I Remember (with Freeway). From start to finish Joe put on a show and even diffused a potential fight between two ladies in the crowd who were arguing over who should go up on stage with him before continuing the performance. He was the star of the night and it’s great to see him still going strong.
One thing I do have to make a note of is the lack of organization at the Hammersmith Apollo. Doors opened at 7pm but we were queuing from 6:30pm and didn’t get inside until about 7:30pm (baring in mind the first act was due to start at 7:45pm and we were near the front of a long snaking que). And although they were searching bags there wasn’t a very thorough check of people and more than once during the night I could smell the strong scent of marijuana in the building. The Indigo O2 at the O2 Arena seems to have bypassed the Apollo in the speed and quality of its security checks as well as having a better sound system. The Apollo is still a great venue for comedy shows but it is no longer the best small concert venue in London town.