Eaglebank Arena in Fairfax, VA, experienced a night of love songs and memories with the annual Valentine’s Love Jam. The artists on this year’s bill were legendary singer and songwriter Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds,” iconic group En Vogue and go-go band Bela Dona.
The night’s performances began with a quick but entertaining set by the all-female go-go band known as Bela-Donna. With impressive vocals and superior musicianship, Bela-Dona’s act was the perfect way to start the show. I was so into their set that I had a frown on my face due to their shortened set time, but I do plan to seek them out at another local venue.
After a brief fifteen minute intermission where radio hosts from 102.3, entertained the crowd with improv jokes, it was time for the En Vogue portion of the show. On our way to the concert, my wife and I had a lively discussion about the group, and I let her know that I still have a crush on Cindy Herron. En Vogue now consists of founding members Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron, and 2003 addition Rhona Bennett. Dressed in matching black outfits the trio’s appearance was flawless. The ladies displayed natural beauty with a flair of grown woman sexuality.
The group’s setlist included the hit songs “My Lovin (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” Free Your Mind and “Don’t Let Go (Love).” The ladies also performed “Rocket” from their latest release, 2018’s, Electric Café. The highlight of their performance for me, though, was their performance of one of their signature ballads, “Giving Him Something He Can Feel.”
En Vogue’s cover version of the Aretha Franklin classic is one of my favorite songs from their catalog. I still have memories of video and I respect the group giving the song a modern feel. En Vogue closed their set with “Hold On.”
The night’s headliner was none other than the legendary Babyface. Some of the musical highlights of Babyface’s portion of the show included the jazzy opening number “For the Cool in You,” the ballad “Sunshine.” Babyface also took the time to entertain the audience with humorous stories about his early touring days with Luther Vandross and El Debarge. My favorite portion of any Babyface show is his cover of songs he’s written for other artists.
Babyface treated audiences to his version of Johnny Gill’s “There U Go,” The Boys “Dial My Heart,” and Bobby Brown’s Roni. Babyface closed his set out with a show-stopping performance of Boyz II Men’s “End of the road.” Per the usual, he unbuttoned his shirts and made his way into the audience of adoring female fans. Babyface is a near-perfect performer. At the age of sixty, his voice is still smooth, and his dance steps are always flawless. I’ve seen Babyface live five times in recent years, and he rarely changes his setlist.
Despite 80% of the setlist order, never changing, during a Babyface show, he has so many hit records and iconic songs, I’m never bothered by it. Although I would love to hear “There She Goes,” “What If,” and selections from his 2005 album Grown & Sexy album worked into future shows.
With a funky opening set by Bela Dona, the pristine vocal stylings of En Vogue, and the grown man swag of Babyface, the Valentine’s Love Jam was a great night of music for lovers in the DMV.
Artist Performance Grades: Bela Dona B+, En Vogue B+, and Babyface A-
Overall Final Show Grade A
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