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Bell Biv DeVoe, Sweat come through

Was it too much bubbly champagne? Maybe it was the paparazzi-esque photo shoot with the over-embellished, monogrammed Keith Sweat backdrop? Or the hordes of silver and gold lame leggings and stilettos?

Something was a little off Friday night in Shea's Performing Arts Center, but it wasn't just the audience's style code or the excess of alcohol.

Upon arrival, guests were greeted by two signs announcing that Sisqo and Dru Hill would not perform -- or appear at all -- as originally planned. Instead, comedian Sheldon Johnson was called in to take their place, and fans were given the choice of a refund before the show if they weren't satisfied with the new lineup.

Come showtime, it seemed as though many ticket holders had taken this option and bailed early on. Johnson opened to a very sparse audience, and although he clearly is passionate about his material, he wasn't nearly ready enough to fill a Dru Hill absence.

His routine was filled with relationship woes, gender observations and the occasional out-of-place one-liner, and at best it was mediocre. Those who had decided to stick it out and stay laughed politely from their seats, but it was evident this wasn't what they had come to see. After a quick 10- to 15-minute set, Johnson introduced Buffalo native T Night, and although this brief cameo was a nice nod to city talent, his appearance lasted a mere five minutes. When Night left the stage and everyone realized that the "replacement" act had finished, and done so in under 20 minutes at that, the crowd quickly became anxious.

Chants of "I need Sisqo!" and "Where is Dru Hill? I think I'm going to cry!" rang out from the balcony, and as the stagehands rearranged equipment, the shoes that Keith Sweat and Bell Biv DeVoe had to fill became much bigger.

Luckily, Bell Biv DeVoe didn't disappoint. The trio and its band took the stage for a little more than half an hour, and every moment seemed to re-energize the previously sullen crowd. "Thought It Was Me" and "Something in Your Eyes" won over the audience, but it was the closing "Poison" that had the entire crowd screaming and on their feet. Sparkling backup dancers added to the excitement during the entire set, but it should be said that members of the audience were putting them to shame at times -- or at least attempting to.

After a drawn-out 30-minute stage intermission, Keith Sweat made his way onstage, and it was obvious that those who hadn't exchanged their tickets had waited for his performance. Easing into "Something Just Ain't Right" and transitioning to the crowd favorite, "Nobody," Sweat's appeal and charm is still strong with fans.


Bell Biv DeVoe, Keith Sweat

Friday night in Shea's Performing Arts Center.

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