Boyz II Men can still make ’em sigh, swoon and sing along
If there was one singular moment in Boyz II Men’s recent concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum that best illustrated the effect of the band’s music on its fans, it would be the R&B group’s ardent performance of the megahit, “I’ll Make Love to You.”
It’s been 20 years since it was released and stayed at the No. 1 spot of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 14 consecutive weeks, but the saccharine ballad has not ceased to make giddy teenage girls out of grown women. And there were a lot in that night’s crowd.
Toward the end of the show mounted by Ovation Productions, the three remaining members of the former singing quartet—Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman—emerged onstage with bunches of long-stemmed roses in their hands. Sensing what was about to happen next, a lady made a mad dash toward the stage, only to be intercepted by two burly bouncers.
One for her
Hysterically, the woman motioned to the men in front of her to look at Nathan, who had already knelt on the edge of the stage, one arm outstretched, handing her a rose. The excited fan was eventually allowed to get close, and, before long, a swarm of squealing ladies had flocked around the stage, too, flailing their arms in a bid to get the attention of the trio, who wore matching white shirts.
All the while, Boyz II Men serenaded the rapt audience with passage upon passage of lush, soulful harmonies, the kind that made it among the bestselling vocal groups of the 1990s.
Shawn, tossing the final rose, spurred what could only be described as a throng of bridesmaids fighting over a bridal bouquet.
Despite having performed for more than two decades, the men’s individual vocals remain remarkable and showed no signs of deterioration: Shawn’s falsettos and belts were smooth and bright; Nathan’s baritone was sensuous, but could also dredge for the low notes that former member Michael McCary used to sing; and Wanya can still perform vocal calisthenics—riffs, runs, growls—with little difficulty.
The three sometimes looked as if they were singing over prerecorded tracks, but Nathan, Shawn and Wanya erased all doubts when they huddled together to dish out a resonant, gospel-inflected a cappella version of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” which melded their voices’ contrasting tones and textures.
They sang of love and its many forms, facets and stages; and the crowd—from the VIP section to the rafters—diligently sang back: “The Color of Love,” “A Song for Mama,” “4 Seasons of Loneliness,” “Water Runs Dry,” and Journey’s “Open Arms.”
Another well-applauded song was “On Bended Knee,” which toppled “I’ll Make Love to You” from the top spot years ago. (The feat made Boyz II Men the only music act, aside from Elvis Presley and The Beatles, to replace their incumbent No. 1 hit with another of their own.)
Meanwhile, Boyz II Men pulled off a series of slick and delightfully campy dance steps that hark back to that of The Temptations’ and other doo-wop bands, during the group’s tribute to Motown.
The group had everyone dancing and grooving to renditions of Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” and a mashup for Four Tops’ “It’s the Same Old Song” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There.”
The only letdown we could think of—and we’re nitpicking—is that the show felt a tad short. Not a few fans were hoping that the boys would perform their collaboration with pop-R&B superstar Mariah Carey, “One Sweet Day”—which remains the longest-running No. 1 song in the history of Billboard, at 16 weeks.
They didn’t. But the song’s recording was blasted from the speakers soon after the R&B group left the stage. And so, the fans, relishing the romance and nostalgia, spilled out of the coliseum, still singing enthusiastically along.
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