The bawdy R&B duo of Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey and Joel “Jo-Jo” Hailey didn’t generate all that much heat, or even crowd reaction, during the first half of their Universal concert on Saturday night; the sexy singing brothers exhibited almost no chemistry onstage and instead seemed all but intent on upstaging each other. But a late-set, much-rumored reunion appearance by all four members of Jodeci, the hit-making North Carolina vocal quartet that spawned K-Ci & Jo-Jo in 1996, was just the spark of energy and excitement this otherwise disappointing show needed.
The Hailey sibs, enveloped by a thick blanket of stage fog, opened their headlining set with a handful of older tracks, like “I Wanna Get to Know You” and “Last Night’s Letter,” from their still-best 1997 album “Love Always.” But the sparsely filled house responded with only polite applause to the pair as they worked separate sides of the room with lots of crude body language that matched their cliched lyrical come-ons.
K-Ci was the bigger ham of the two, and he repeatedly ventured out into the audience in an unsuccessful attempt to create some energy in the vibeless room. The hit 1999 ballad “Girl,” during which K-Ci tore his shirt off, drew screams from the crowd and was one of the few bright spots of the first half.
Some songs from last year’s third MCA album “X,” like the uninspired “One Last Time,” drove many in the house to take their seats. But maybe everyone was saving their best for the Jodeci segment, because when brothers Dalvin DeGrate and Donald “DeVante” DeGrate came strutting out for a hits-filled medley of Jodeci’s soul-New Jack singing, the place immediately went from illin’ to chillin’.
The reunion, Jodeci’s first public perf in six years, started with parts of the first three songs from 1991’s “Forever My Lady” album — “Stay,” “Come and Talk to Me,” and the title track –before charting a mostly chronological path through the quartet’s five-year history that included 1994’s hit “Feenin’ ” and “Get on Up,” from 1995’s ill-fated “The Show, the After Party, the Hotel” (MCA).
They also sang Tupac Shakur’s “Toss It Up,” as well as “How Do You Want It,” the 1996 collaboration between Tupac and K-Ci & Jo-Jo that was the latter’s first release away from Jodeci.
The evening ended with a rejuvenated K-Ci & Jo-Jo dropping a few more of their own songs, albeit with much more energy and magnetism than before. The 1997 track “All My Life,” one of their most romantic, was a late-set crowd-pleaser.
K-Ci & Jo-Jo are scheduled to play the Las Vegas House of Blues on June 14. The new Jodeci album is due in stores Nov. 13, to be followed by a U.S. tour.