Show Review: Bell Biv Devoe at Yoshi’s SF, 12/23/2010

by Gordon Elgart on December 25, 2010

This is what they looked like. No idea who the smiling guy in the hat is.

When I thought about what to expect out of a Bell Biv Devoe show at a jazz club in 2010, I thought this: a 12-minute version of “Poison,” a 10-minute version of “Do Me!”, an instrumental jam by the band and a medley of everything else. “What about New Edition? I bet they do a lot of that,” remarked one friend. What about them? What does a Bell Biv Devoe show look like in 2010? The short answer: it looks like MTV in 1990. The long answer?

First off, let’s talk about Yoshi’s San Francisco for a minute. When I told people I was seeing BBD at Yoshi’s, people said, “wait, isn’t that a jazz club?” These people have not been paying too much attention. For it’s not just a jazz club: there’s been folk music, R&B, funk, rock ‘n roll, and sometimes, even jazz. Why just this week are shows by Morris Day & the Time and Edgar Winter. Take a good look at their calendar; even if you don’t like jazz, there’s something there for you.

So after finding what was left of the seats in a packed room, I took note of their set up: keyboards, bass, drums, and a couple of turntables. The DJ came out first and did a 10-minute warm-up set of 90s hip-hop classics, inviting the crowd to sing along. And boy howdy did they! Hundreds of people singing “I’m not internationally known but I’m known to rock the microphone” is something you need to experience at least once in your life.

Now with a warmed up crowd, out comes Bel Biv Devoe, dressed in identical red leather vests looking like they just walked out of one of their videos, dancing choreographed breakdowns, and working the crowd (especially the ladies) throughout their opening medley of their second-tier hits, like “BBD (I Thought It Was Me)” and a few others that, well, I personally couldn’t identify.

In the beginning, there was a lot of screaming, a little dancing, but things didn’t really get going until the band went right into “Do Me!” After this, it was bedlam in this little club. Every word, whether sung or rapped, was accompanied by everyone in the audience. And unlike some acts, who change their hits subtly, removing some of the lyrical bits that make them fun, every single bit was unchanged. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve yelled “The J, the I, the M, the M, the Y, y’all … I need a body bag” with a few hundred strangers.

Things didn’t really settle down throughout the New Edition medley that followed. Women were invited on stage, one at a time, to sing the verses of “Mr. Telephone Man.” When they performed “Candy Girl,” it was simply the record being played while BBD danced and the audience sang. What could slow down the party for a moment?

Why, it was time for Ricky Bell to step up to the mic and take over on a few slow jams. There was the so-called rarely played “I Do Need You” and one other track I don’t know, and then “When Will I See You Smile Again?” which I was told to “Sing it, brother!” as I did my best new jack soul slow jam singalong moves. Then, as they thanked the fevered crowd, a chant came from the balcony, and was quickly joined. “Poison! Poison! Poison!”

My original prediction was a little weak, as this was now a 17-minute version of “Poison.” Again, all the little lyrical bits remained intact: “me and the crew used to do her,” “yo slick, blow,” and the closing arpeggio all made it into this rendition. Also included were 15 women on stage competing in a dance contest to see who could do the breakdown the best. Ever seen the running man being done perfectly by a woman in 6-inch heels? No? Then you should go see a Bell Biv Devoe show.

After Poison, the show was over, and the lights were on. BBD hinted at a New Edition tour for 2011, which would include their entire “family.” But tonight at Yoshi’s, they looked really happy to be on stage, doing what they love for adoring fans. While it was musically a bit of a nostalgia trip, being asked if we remember 1983 (yes, yes I do), the energy in the audience was very much a product of now. If there is water under their bridge, you’d never know it, and I imagine any upcoming New Edition shows would be equally as positive and energetic.

But for now, I just want to remind you of one thing: never trust a big butt and a smile.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Casey Martinez December 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Seems you had quite a bit of fun at this show and the review reads like it was fun to write! Jealousy ensues, I love me some BBD

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Joel Edelman December 29, 2010 at 2:53 pm

This might be the best review you’ve ever written.

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Gordon Elgart December 29, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Thanks!

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