A couple weeks ago on a Monday, Lara and I went to the Nebraska State Fair to see Boyz II Men play for free at the outdoor theater. There was an awning, but I don’t want to get into semantics on a Sunday.
Lara was really excited, because Boyz II Men’s “II” was her first CD, and she spun the living crud out of that bad boy, probably while crying over 12-year-old boys. I didn’t own any Boyz II Men CDs (or tapes?) and I never cried over any 12-year-old boys, but I did know the singles pretty well, and definitely liked them as a youngster. But I don’t think I would have gone to the concert if it weren’t for Lara’s insistence.
We ate some weird food (toasted ravioli, onion blossoms) and drank some 20-ounce lite beers (hurray for the fair!) and stood on the side of the stage to wait for Boyz II Men to take the stage. The place was PACKED. According to a friend, the crowd waiting to get in at 6 pm was gigantic, even though the Boyz didn’t take the stage until 8 or so. But when they did take the stage, Holy Fishsticks; the crowd went NUTS. They started right off with half of “Motown Philly” (which they later played in full as the encore), and people were flipping out and singing along. The crowd was so consistently enthused that the Boyz repeated a few times throughout the night that “it’s been 14 years since we’ve been to Nebraska, but believe me when I say that it won’t be that long between visits ever again!” The crowd was a grateful one.
The perils of being a come-back band at the State Fair is that people want to hear the hits, even if you’ve put out 487 new CDs since your last radio single. However, the Boyz handled this very well. They spaced their hit singles out so that the crowd never got restless, and they introduced new material by saying things like, “We know most of you won’t know this song, and that’s okay; we just like this song so much that we think it’s worth playing it for a bunch of people who’ve never heard it.” And the new songs were GOOD. They didn’t have the same sentimental value as “End of the Road” (graduation/prom, anyone?) of course, but how could they? Give them time.
Apparently, a few years ago, Boyz II Men put out a CD with covers of classic Motown hits, stuff from Smokey Robinson and the like. They played a chunk of about 4 or 5 of these songs at the show, and everyone sung along, especially the older set. During the night, I was constantly amazed at the breadth of age of the people singing along to the hits; there were kids who must have been in middle school singing along to “Water Runs Dry” while their 40-year-old parents did the same. Which proves, I think, that Boyz II Men really did make classic music, even though they were unfortunately grouped in with bands like New Kids on the Block.
Most of all, Lara and I were just impressed with how good they sounded, and how meaningful and awesome the songs were 10+ years later. If it weren’t for that show, I wouldn’t be buying “II” et al in the coming days. And I wouldn’t be planning on covering “Water Runs Dry” and my next solo show. I hope people give their new stuff the same chance that they gave “II” years ago.
“Boyz II Men; ABC, BBD! The East Coast Family!”