A majority of the buzz surrounding Friday night’s Spring Music Festival was the ongoing debate as to whether R&B singer Jaheim would actually show up. Yes, he was reportedly booked. Yes, he was on promotional material. But neither have stopped him from being absent before. They would have to wait until just before the show to learn that he had done it again. The sighs of disappointment could be heard repeatedly as fans made their way to the entrances at Chaifetz and to learn from signs posted on the door that Jaheim would not be a part of the lineup. Friday night marked the third consecutive time that Jaheim disappointed St. Louis fans by not showing up to a show – with no official explanation given. Refunds were offered. Some guests took advantage. The rest were treated with an enjoyable evening of R&B that reflected the 1990s and 2000s.
Sounds curated by 95.5 FM’s DJ Kut and comic relief from veteran funnyman Damon Williams were woven between the lineup that included Donnell Jones, Avant, Monica and Tank.
Jones was first up. He seemed to suffering some sort of vocal issues. Despite perfunctory singing voice, he seemed intent on giving the audience a show – a feat he achieved by compelling the crowd to sing along to his greatest hits, including his cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” as well as his own “Where I Wanna Be.”
Avant brought pristine vocals and a powerhouse of a female background singer to cover the parts of his regular collaborator KeKe Wyatt. He’s usually not top of mind when one considers a list of top R&B live performers, but Avant is indeed reliable when It comes to giving a solid and well rounded performance. Such was the case Friday night as he presented his catalog of urban radio hits. He pointed out that he hasn’t been recognized by the mainstream industry for his contributions to the R&B/Soul genre, but thanked the fans who have supported him for more than two decades. His biggest hit “Separated” was placed in the middle of his set – and he defiantly continued a set that included his cover of Renee and Angela’s “My First Love” and “Nothing In This World” as he went long for his portion of the show and the timekeeper came on stage to nudge him off. Among the bonus material was a quick tribute to Luther Vandross.
Monica gave a show that was a throwback to her “Miss Thang” days. Her vocals were still intact from 25 years ago – when the then 14-year-old with a grown up voice and an “around the way” attitude gave young female listeners of R&B music a star that they could directly relate with. She took those fans on a musical memory land journey thanks to her teen anthems “Don’t Take It Personal,” “Like This and Like That” “Before You Walk Out My Life” and “For You I Will.” She paid tribute to fallen hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle during “Angel,” and hinted at her current personal life situation – which includes a divorce from former NBA star Shannon Brown. Starting with a bit of “Love all over me” she asked the audience if she could sing what’s she’s feeling and jumped right into “So Gone.”
The show closed with Tank – who kicked his set off with “Sex Music.” And that’s exactly what he provided the audience with during his 45 minutes on stage. “We don’t need no clothes for this,” Tank sang as he took his shirt off and put his chiseled chest and abs on display. He focused primarily on his “Savage” album – an impressive mix of mid-tempo tracks and ballads that are raunchy beyond imagination, but showcase his skills as a singer, songwriter and performer. “Maybe I Deserve” was the about the only exception as far as Tank nostalgia – though he gave the faithful fans who stayed until the end of the show a performance of “Please Don’t Go” and his cover of Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” as a finale.