New Edition feels the love during 30th anniversary tour

R&B group to perform May 1 at James Brown Arena

PATRICK SEMANSKY/FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
New Edition's hits include Candy Girl, Cool It Now and Mr. Telephone Man, which was written by Ray Parker Jr.
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When New Edition hits the stage at James Brown Arena on May 1, members of the popular R&B band will be able to look out in the audience and feel the love.

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New Edition fans from the Augusta-Aiken area have supported one of their favorite bands where it counts – at the box office. Because of an overwhelming response, the band’s original concert, scheduled for April 12 at USC Aiken Convocation Center, was moved to James Brown Arena to accommodate a larger crowd.

New Edition’s 30th anniversary reunion tour started small in late December, and it has become larger and larger, member Johnny Gill said during a telephone interview.

“It’s been great. It’s been four or five years for all of us. We definitely had the intentions of starting 2012 on tour,” Gill said. “It has been more fun than it has really been work. It’s just a blessing.”

The positive response from fans has been overwhelming, Gill said.

“You hear people say ‘We miss you guys,’ but you really don’t feel the impact or know how much they really did until you get out here and make one plan and then the plan changes to another.”

The successful boy band, with members Gill, Bobby Brown, Ricky Bel, Mike Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe and Ralph Tresvant, started in the northeast in the 1980s. They were discovered by writer and producer Maurice Starr, who signed the group to his small label and had hopes of their becoming the next Jackson 5 phenomenon.

Over the years, the band had hits such as Candy Girl and Can You Stand the Rain and songs that launched their solo careers, including My Prerogative (Bobby Brown), My My My (Johnny Gill), Sensitivity (Ralph Tresvant), and Poison (Bell, Bivins and DeVoe). Some credit the band for paving the way for the fusion of hip hop and R&B music, known as “new jack swing.”

Gill joined New Edition in 1987. He said his role was “to bring a more mature sound to the group” in order to continue its legacy and build longevity.

The members have kept in touch over the years. Gill, Brown and Tresvant formed a group in 2008 called Heads of State and recently performed at the Trumpet Awards. The group has also toured.

“We’ve never let those ties go,” Gill said.

After 16 years and many requests from fans, Gill has released a new solo album called Still Winning.

“I made a conscious effort with this new CD that when you put it on, you should not have to hit the skip button. It’s a project that I’m beyond proud of. It’s nothing but great music,” Gill said. “That’s all I set out to do with this CD. When you listen to the whole album, it’s just great music that is completely timeless.”

He said his new CD has received rave reviews. He will be touring to promote the album after the New Edition tour ends.

When reflecting on his career, Gill said being a member of LSG, along with Keith Sweat and the late Gerald Levert, was “absolutely a moment in his career that he will cherish for the rest of his life.”

“Gerald was a very close friend. Gerald was like my brother. That’s my brother, and I miss him a lot,” he said.

He and Levert affectionately described themselves as “partners in crime.” When they were doing solo shows and wanted to “kick it in another gear,” they would call each other to perform and surprise their audience, he said.

Recently, Gill participated in an LSG tour with Sweat and Levert’s father, Eddie Levert, who has been like a father to him for many years, he said. Levert and The O’Jays performed a show last February at Bell Auditorium.

Gill said he has enjoyed being a member of various groups over the years.

“It brings balance. It’s also a great thing for anyone to experience. You’re able to step outside of yourself as an artist and become a team player. It teaches you how to work with others. I get the best of both worlds,” Gill said.

IN CONCERT

WHO: New Edition 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. May 1; doors open at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: James Brown Arena

TICKETS: $29.50, $39.50, $49.50 and $61.50; www.georgialinatix.com, by phone at (877) 4-AUGTIX and at the Champion’s Box Office at James Brown Arena. Tickets for the original April 12 date at the USC Aiken Convocation Center will be honored.


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