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Babyface leaves ’em swooning in the aisles

Is it a violation of journalistic ethics to enthusiastically – and with great purpose – kiss the cheek of the headlining R&B superstar that one has been sent to review? Well, it happened.

Swept up in the culminating moment of a well-paced, 90-minute set of nonstop hits, having watched the headlining R&B superstar whip off his jacket, and then his shirt, and then jump from the stage to charge up an aisle lined with ardent fans, it seemed the thing to do.

I saw handsome Babyface coming and puckered up. His face was warm and slightly salty (it was the end of his set, after all), and then off he ran, mic in hand, doing a swooping lap around the room.

Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds performed a nearly sold-out concert in Seneca Niagara Events Center, a 2,500-seat venue within the resort. There was no opener because this was “An Evening With,” signifying an intimate concert. The set began a little late as fans streamed in, many dressed in red for Valentine’s Day. It was a crowd of couples (some sweetly holding hands), and girlfriends out on the town.

Ten minutes to showtime and the bassist and guitarist hit the stage quietly for a little preshow tuning. The band of seven, including stellar saxophonist Andre Delano (the sole introduced band member), hit the stage as a video reviewing Babyface’s career began: 11 Grammy Awards, four-time American Music Award winner, four-time Soul Train Music Award winner, more than 50 top-10 pop hits, and on and on. A video of his biggest hits rolled as Babyface appeared to a thundering roar.

“For the Cool in You,” an early ’90s hit, started off the tight set, leading into another, “Every Time I Close My Eyes.” There would be a surprising shrill rock guitar solo, some church-worthy organ playing and ultra-sexy saxophone solos as Babyface floated from hit to hit, including “Change the World,” which he produced for rocker Eric Clapton.

“You guys having a good time so far?” he asked after “Whip Appeal,” which had the ladies on their feet. The singer/songwriter/producer took a seat on a stool, acoustic guitar in hand, to say “It’s catching up on me, Babyface is not Babybody, I’m trying to catch my breath,” after a rollicking run of his megahits. He spoke of his stint on “Dancing With the Stars,” described as “horrific,” with “a nerve (he) couldn’t shake. I am so glad to be back here.”

Fan frenzy went scorching when R&B legend Johnny Gill took over vocals on “My, My, My,” appearing magically from front-of-stage. Gill stood on his seat to sing, the song ending with Babyface chanting “Johnny Gill! Johnny Gill!”

The set closer, “End of the Road” (“I’ll give you everything and more/All that I’ve got, it’s yours”) ended with the off-stage roaming – and kissing. There was one lone encore tune, “When Can I See You Again?” with Babyface, on solo acoustic guitar once again, offering a centering and fan-loving ending.

Concert Review

Kenny ‘Babyface’ Edmonds
Saturday night at the Seneca Niagara Casino Events Center.

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