R&B's favorite 'Boyz' are back

Boyz II Men perform at Center for the Arts for Ronald McDonald Holiday Show


Boyz II Men had no intention of letting the group’s age affect their performance; they sang like it was 1994.

The 23-year-old group emerged out of the fog that surrounded the Center for the Arts’ Mainstage, Wanya Morris, Shawn Stockman and Nathan Morris stood in a semi-circle formation. The harmonious trio began singing “Believe,” one of their more recent songs. Regardless of the song’s popularity, the familiar Boyz II Men sensuality drew the audience to sing along with the a capella group.

Saturday night, Boyz II Men performed at the Center for the Arts, in the Ronald McDonald House of Charities of Western New York eighth annual holiday show. The proceeds from the concert’s ticket sales went toward the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo, to provide programs that improve the health and well being of children.

“We make real music. We make music that you can actually make love to,” Morris, one of the three members of Boyz II Men said, reassuring the audience as long as they have the support of fans, they will keep making “real music.”

Their performance of “On Bended Knee,” a song that truly epitomizes the essence of Boyz II Men, was the longest song they performed and the iconic track set the tone for the rest of the night.

Wanya spent the majority of the hit on his knees, as the audience stood in resounding reminiscence of the group’s 1994 hit single.

In the spirit of reminiscing and traveling back in time, the group paid homage to Motown Records, the record company that first signed them in 1991. The audience was treated to the roots of the R&B genre and to the sound of “trailblazers,” as the group put it, which made it possible for Boyz II Men to exist – the era of Motown.

“Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” is considered to be one of the Four Tops’ – a Motown band from the 1960s – signature songs. The voices of Boyz II Men and their fans gave the1966 hit a comeback.

“Reach out and touch us,” Stockman told the audience as hundreds of arms flew into the air, waving to the lyricism of the Four Tops.

Martha Jackson, 44, from Buffalo, is an avid Boyz II Men fan who was seeing them for the fourth time on Saturday. She said it was nice to see the group perform Motown.

“They’re not only paying respects to the musicians who changed R&B music, but it’s also where they got their start,” she said.

Boyz II Men’s gratitude, however, surpassed Motown and entered into the depths of rock ‘n’ roll soul. Stockman enigmatically memorialized two iconic members of the “27 club,” Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, on his electric guitar.

Leaving the realm of R&B and saluting other genres of music and historic musicians is what made Mike Matthews’, 27, from Tonawanda, first Boyz II Men concert “incredible” and memorable.

“I like seeing things that are different,” he said.

Matthews’ attraction to the group intensified when they brought out electric guitars and did a salute to rock ‘n’ roll.”.

Stockman also showed the trio’s gratitude to the audience members by making light of the recent snowstorm.

“On TV, Buffalo was just gone. And I asked ‘Are we really going there? Why are we going there?”

Nathan and Morris added to Stockman’s charm by expressing their appreciation to their fans with one of their most popular songs, “I’ll Make Love To You.” Stockman, Morris and Nathan each held a boutique of roses, tossing and handing them to audience members.

Jackson was one of many fans to receive a rose.

Their 1994 hit won a Grammy for Best R&B song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1995. It is also the song responsible for “Boyz II Men babies.”

“We know some of you had some Boyz II Men babies because of this song,” Morris said. “We consider ourselves their uncles. But they better not ask us for money after the show.”

The group also promoted their newest album, Collide, which features an electric-funk twist to the otherwise sweet serenade.

At the start of the show, a $40,000 check was presented to Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo’s representative, Sally Vincent by event organizer, Rico Francani – about $5,000 more than last year.

In the spirit of giving, Francani introduced the audience to Matthews by giving him $2,000. Matthews recently bought a house for his wife and kids, all while battling stage-four Hodgkin's lymphoma. He announced at Saturday’s concert that he is now cancer free.

Richard Tuozo, 19, from the Philippines, said Boyz II Men is one of his musical influences. Tuozo works with the Ronald McDonald House of Buffalo and performed in last year’s holiday show.

Tuozo and, his co-worker, Richard Sienkiewiecz, 27, a Cheektowaga native, enjoyed Saturday’s concert. It was their first time seeing Boyz II Men live.

“I usually listen to alternative music, but now I’m definitely going to listen to more of their music,” Sienkiewiecz said. “They have good harmony,”

Nearing the end of the night, the group performed four of their most famous songs: “4 Seasons of Loneliness,” “Water Runs Dry” and “End of the Road,” which remains Boyz II Men’s biggest hit. They ended with a grand finale of “Motown Philly,” the group’s first single on their debut album Cooleyhighharmony in 1991.

“Motown Philly” brought the feelings of the concert full circle. In true Boyz II Men fashion, they ending the concert “doin’ a little east coast swag.”

email: arts@ubspectrum.com