“These are true Keith Sweat fans,” KMOV-TV anchor Courtney Bryant said. “The rain has started, but nobody has moved.” She tried to shield herself from the drizzle as she and BJ The DJ of Majic 103.7 FM introduced the headlining musical act for the Friday night Fair Saint Louis concert on July 5.
“Keith Sweat, Keith Sweat, Keith Sweat…” fans began chanting just after 8 p.m. – just moments before Bryant and BJ took the stage. Fans hovered towards the gate that separated the pit area from the performance stage at Gateway Arch National Park. Storm clouds had been present all afternoon.
Neither the threat of rain – or actual rain – could keep them from the show they’ve waited more than a month to see as part of the Fair Saint Louis entertainment lineup. The ones closest to the stage came hours earlier to secure a prime viewing location. The crowd stretched from the hilltop of the park, where the stage was located because of flood levels, all the way to Market Street.
Both Sweat and featured performer Johnny Gill proved worth the wait – and the wet.
Johnny Gill, who ironically performed the New Edition hit “Can You Stand The Rain,” came out with a message of love for St. Louis fans. He told them that St. Louis is his hands down favorite city to perform for and expressed his gratitude for the city’s unwavering support.
“The love that you guys have given me over the years has been unbelievable,” Gill said after kicking off his portion of the show with dance hits “Fairweather Friend” and “Wrap Your Body Tight.” “I’m talking about when people were saying, 'you’re over, you’re done, don’t nobody want to hear from you.’ When I would come to St. Louis, it never changed. The energy and the love you guys have given me over the years has given me the strength to stand in front of those people and let them know today that I am still standing.”
That energy that Gill spoke of was palpable as he showed them love for the love they showed him.
“I’m gonna try to sing every damn song I know tonight,” Gill said, which was met with even more screams of encouragement. “They are gonna have to kick my [expletive] off the stage. I don’t even have to say anything about partying tonight, because I see my people are already ready to go. I see y’all partying and I’m coming down there before the night is over and we’re gonna party together.”
He kept his promises – and even handed out roses, and a teddy bear, when he maneuvered through the crowd during a performance of “My, My My.” It was the culmination of an hour-long performance that included more than a dozen songs from Gill’s 30-plus year career as a solo artist and a lead singer of R&B group New Edition. “Can You Stand The Rain” was the only New Edition track. He worked in newer selections such as “Game Changer” and “Soul of a Woman” before closing the show with his breakthrough solo hit “Rub You The Right Way.”
Keith Sweat picked up where Johnny Gill left off as far as the groove by opening the show with dance hits “Make You Sweat” and “Don’t Stop Your Love” before slowing things down with “Get Up On It.”
“I have to keep it family friendly,” Keith Sweat told the crowd as he crooned. Known for his “grown and sexy” vibe, he remained as PG as possible while staying true to the music that his fans have come to know and love. He doesn’t have the simulated sex and raunchy lyrics that have become par for the course for some of the contemporary R&B, but a tad bit of scaling back was required – including leaving “Freak Me,” a song he penned for 1990s group Silk off of the set list. Otherwise, it was the same Sweat that fans have followed through the 80s, 90s, 2000s and now.
Gill was invited back to the stage to perform the hit “My Body,” by the R&B super group that was comprised of Gill Sweat and late singer Gerald LeVert.
Sweat switched back between midtempo and quiet storm with songs such as “Make It Last Forever,” “How Deep Is Your Love” and “Just Got Paid,” a song Sweat penned for late Bahamian singer Johnny Kemp. He went tit for tat between dance tracks and ballads – including “Twisted,” “I’ll Give All My Love To You,” and “Nobody” before closing with a cover of Cameo’s “Candy.”
He too declared his love for St. Louis – saying that the city is one of his favorite places to perform. The fans always show up for him as well. He said he couldn’t remember the last time he came to St. Louis. It was last November, but Sweat and the fans connected like it had been several years since the last time he graced the stage.