R&B singer Tyrese dedicated a Valentine’s Day performance to entertainers who are no longer with us, including late Lakers star Kobe Bryant, rapper Nipsey Hussle, director John Singleton and actor Paul Walker. Taking the stage at the Forum on Feb. 16, where he shared the bill with Avant, Dru Hill, Ginuwine and Joe, Tyrese, accompanied by a gospel choir, told the crowd: “We lost Kobe Bryant, his beautiful daughter GiGi, and so many other beautiful souls on that helicopter. This is a real instagram moment because we’re going to send some love, some prayers out to his beautiful wife and everybody else we lost in the tragedy.”
The Los Angeles native then launched into Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” as video images were displayed on a giant screen. Tyrese was close to Singleton and Walker, with whom he worked on “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and he and the choir capped off the tribute with a performance of “You Are the Source of My Strength.”
Tyrese’s set was the highlight of a night that could be described as an exhibition of black love — and not just because it was two days after the Valentine’s holiday (though the roses each singer threw into the crowd were a constant reminder), but because Tyrese’s catalog of romantic hits like “Signs of Love Making,” “Sweet Lady,” and “How You Gonna Act Like That?” is as sensual as it gets.
Usher and Chris Brown may be today’s reigning kings of R&B, but it was Ginuwine, Joe, Sisqo, Avant and Tyrese who paved the way for mainstream acceptance.
Avant opened the evening, dubbed the “Valentine’s Love Jam,” with some of his iconic songs like “My First Love,” “Makin’ Good Love,” and “Read Your Mind.” The crowd ate it up — so much so that the singer wouldn’t leave the stage without protest — and Avant got two more songs in: his own “4 minutes” and a cover of Luther Vandross’ “Superstar.”
Dru Hill was next on the bill. The ’90s group co-founded by Sisqo split the set into two parts: a solo turn that included crowd favorite the “Thong Song” and a Dru Hill showcase of such classics as “In My Bed” and “Tell Me What You Want.” Dancing was a big part of the performance which also introduced the newest members of Dru Hill, named Smoke and Black, who delivered a new song called “What You Need.”
Ginuwine also brought the ’90s romance. Emerging in a red fur-collared jacket with shoes to match, he performed “None of Ur Friends Business” and “Same Ol’ G” from his 1999 album “100% Ginuwine” then serenaded the crowd of women who rushed to the front as he performed “Differences.” Paying no mind to the #MeToo movement, Ginuwine made his way through the crowd while singing the song “Pony” and directing security to search for the right woman to “ride it.” Plenty were ready to volunteer.
While Ginuwine’s set featured bright choreography and costumes, Joe’s set was far more subdued. Performing solo wearing a glittery jacket and matching black pants, Joe crooned through “Faded Pictures,” “What If a Woman,” and “Don’t Want to be a Player,” reminding fans why his version of “Big Rich Town,” the “Power” theme song, is the perfect opener for the 50 Cent-helmed show. Also included in his set were the songs “More and More,” “Love Scene,” “I Wanna Know,” and “All the things Your Man Won’t Do.”
The evening was hosted by comedian Damon Williams who offered his own take on breakup songs, noting that today’s younger R&B fans consider a track like Big Sean’s “IDFWU” as the ultimate split statement. Added Williams: “They don’t make music like this anymore.”