The challenging life of being married with children – and yes, the challenges exist in abundance – does not afford the luxury of uninterrupted adult activities often. Nevertheless, when those precious opportunities reveal themselves to be seized, those precious opportunities cannot be wasted. And when that precious opportunity entails covering dual award-winning artists from your prime adult years, one would be insane to decline offer and not embrace the moment. Partnering with Lincoln Motor Company for the 6th installment of their Lincoln First Listen series, NE-YO- along with the incomparable Brandy, performed at the Chene Park Amphitheater – Detroit, Michigan July 20th for some sizzling summer tunes, both old and new material. And bonus: My beautiful wife Stephanie was also extended an invitation to join me for the event. Therfore, a gracious thank you to Randy L. Jones, APR, Director, Media Communications and Event Operations with UWG. And so, without any further delay, allow me to dive into the intimate details from the evening’s activities.
The aforementioned, critically acclaimed music series, featuring the all-new 2018 Lincoln Navigator with brand partner NE-YO, is an amalgam of both quiet sophistication and impeccable style, representing the contemporary gentleman that appreciates understated elegance and inimitable grace. The event itself was a perfectly classy affair, commencing early evening with a VIP reception in the Lincoln Lounge. I was pleasantly surprised to see an old college classmate – Rajoielle Register – who is currently Head of Brand Strategy and Growth Audience Marketing for Ford Motor Company. And better still, I was also pleasantly surprised to see yet another former college classmate – Eniso Ngwenya – who is currently Body Interior Appearance Leader with Ford Motor Company. I am proud to see both of these dynamic women exemplifying success in their respective fields.
Enjoying a picturesque setting directly on the Detroit River; Stephanie and I were treated to some delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails which included roast beef sliders, lettuce chicken wraps, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, chicken & waffles on a skewer, and Moët & Chandon for spirits. I had a simple glass of Sprite. It is very rare that I partake in an adult beverage; perhaps only on wedding anniversaries. But I digress, the location (adjacent to the main stage) was simply gorgeous with a small assembly of boats dropping anchor nearby to capture some tunes emanating from the main stage. And as good fortune would have it, under the ominous specter of thunderstorms, the final outcome was a beautiful evening with a soft breeze rolling off the river, resulting in a cool summer night that rivaled the hot performances to come.
Keeping crowd engaged until Brandy was set to hit the stage, the DJ spun some classic R & B jams to elicit a slow build to the first musical act. After a reverent and passionate introduction from Local 4 News team reporter/anchor Evrod Cassimy, Brandy launched onto the stage with an energy that transported me back to late 1994. Performing her classic up-tempo tracks that had the crowd jumping to beloved slow jams that had bodies gently swaying, Brandy poured her all into her performance even though her voice was not 100%. Spoiler alert: Her vocals were not at full strength because she has been in the studio recording a new album! From engaging the audience with a funny story about winning her first Grammy to a heartening tribute to the late, great Whitney Houston (Brandy’s last album – Two Eleven – is a reference to her birthday, which is also the same day Houston passed away), the whole performance was steeped in nostalgia and emotion. She even unleashed her alter ego B Rocka and spit a few verses. Favorite moment of the night: Brandy singing and improvising her part from The Boy is Mine while the crowd recited the part for Monica. Classic. Simply classic. I am looking forward to her new material, as I have always loved her raspy, sweet vocals.
After a brief intermission and trip back to the VIP Lincoln Lounge to replenish some fluids, it was time for the second performance to commence. Now, in my humble opinion, NE-YO is probably one of the more underrated live performers on the music scene. I had never watched a NE-YO performance live before, but it is apparent the influence Michael Jackson is prominent. Maybe I can chalk it up to the vegan diet he referenced, but wow, this man did not appear to fatigue at all. Promising to take us back to a period in time “when music was good”, he surely did not disappoint the crowd. All of the hits were on display. So Sick. Sexy Love. Miss Independent. Champagne Life. He also surprised the crowds with renditions of hits that some people probably did not realize he penned, such as hits Let Me Love You (Mario) and Irreplaceable (Beyoncé).
When he wasn’t treating the crowd to classic material, we were introduced to offerings from his seventh and new album – Good Man (released June 2018). Representing aspirations that every gentleman strives to achieve, the album embraces the many of facets of being a loving husband, devoted father, and selfless servant to society. It is about growth and maturity. It is about self-reflection and honesty; being the model gentleman that one’s family and community deserves. It was truly an honor and blessing to be invited to cover this event, as I feel The Gentlemen’s Standard upholds those ideals. The entire evening was nothing short of spectacular, as a night out as an adult was a welcome change from potty watch, breaking up toddler fights, and cleaning up toys. However, true story, the very next day my daughter caught a nasty bug, so I was back to cleaning up the contents of her nauseated stomach and sleeping on the floor next to her bed to monitor her fever. Such is life. And note to self: I to step up my hat game come autumn because NE-YO has that on lock.