Review by Justin Burkhardt
Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds took the Sands Event Center Stage Friday night for what was an uneven “Valentine’s Day” concert. Babyface, who has written and produced over twenty #1 R&B hits, isn’t as big of a household name as he probably should be, but maybe it’s because he’s just not a great performer. The show was short (about 1 hour 20 minutes) and started late. Babyface struggled at times with conditioning, for example sitting on the steps for “talking” to the audience while he admittedly tried to catch his breath. Sure he’s 55 years old, but Prince is 56 and still can perform for hours, so that’s not an excuse, especially since Babyface looks to be in good shape.
The show had some high notes but featured a lot of teases and issues. Babyface took the stage in all black with black sunglasses to perform “For The Cool In You” which his voice was drowned out by the sound of the band. The highlight of the show was hearing “Every Time I Close My Eyes”, one of his biggest hits. The song included a guitar solo that had a lot of the women (and some men) in the crowd cheering, especially when the he held the last few notes at the end of the song. Babyface’s voice, while strained at times in the beginning, is still strong when he wants it to be.
Unfortunately, the show was uneven. After touching on some of his older hits like “Never Keeping Secrets” and “Sunshine,” he then turned his attention to telling us more about how his career got started and some of the songs he wrote during his career. He spoke about some of the early music that he wrote, like Midnight Star’s “Slow Jam” and The Whispers ‘“Rock Steady”, while also joking about how writing these hit songs helped get him his “first JC Penny card”. Then the medley turned to Babyface talking about touring with DeBarge and Luther Vandross. Afterwards he performed more snippets from some of the biggest hits he penned for others including “Don’t Be Cruel” & “ Every Little Step” (originally preformed by Bobby Brown),“Can We Talk?” (originally performed by Tevin Campbell), “My My My” (originally performed by Johnny Gill), and “End of the Road” & “I’ll Make Love To You” (originally performed by Boyz II Men). The medley was cool from a history-of-music perspective but I would have rather heard a full or nearly-full version of some of these songs than just snippets of a whole bunch. Babyface then returned after the medley with an orange/red jacket and performed his hit “Whip Appeal.” After that the lights came on and I was left asking “It’s already over?” I would have liked to hear some more of HIS hits tonight for example: “There She Goes”, “Change The World”, and “When Can I See You Again”.
Babyface also spent a lot of time (maybe too much) talking to the crowd, especially during his medley. I wish instead of talking we could have gotten longer or full versions of the songs he wrote. Babyface also had some moves (when he had the energy) and at one point during “End Of The Road” in his medley he ran through the entire crowd with his shirt unbuttoned. I just wonder many if the things he did he would have gotten away with if he wasn’t Babyface. His name still carries that much weight and I think many people were willing to look past an average, at best, performance because of who he is. At this point in his career Babyface should probably stop trying to move around the stage like James Brown and focus on just singing his songs.
While that may sound harsh, I expected more from such a legendary name in music. There may be a reason some people are better are writing and producing rather than performing. It wasn’t a bad time, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it should have been. I can look past the sound and conditioning issues, but I expected more from someone who has meant so much to the music industry, and his concert should have been longer for someone with such a deep catalog.