Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018 | 2 a.m.
The Boston-born, R&B “boy band” New Edition soldiered on after the charismatic Bobby Brown left the group in 1985 to pursue a solo career. Both acts went on to release hit records, and then a trio of New Edition members — Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe — broke out and formed their own group, BBD, with their own sound in 1990, striking gold with classic R&B hip-hop hit “Poison.”
Eventually New Edition reunited for more music and concerts, joining Brown, Bell, Bivins and DeVoe with original lead singer Ralph Tresvant and Brown’s replacement, Johnny Gill. The story of the group was told in BET’s TV miniseries “The New Edition Story” last year, which earned terrific ratings and sparked a surge in the group’s popularity.
Those breakout stars have joined forces for a summer mini-tour under the new banner of RBRM: Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky and Mike. If you’re not a New Edition fan from back in the day you may not recognize those four names in that order mimic a well-known lyric from 1984 bubblegum pop single “Cool It Now.” If you are a fan, you’ll be at the Red Rock Resort Friday night to catch this crew singing all their hits.
“I think we’re having fun performing each other’s music. It’s a very organic, family feel,” says Bivins, always known as the most business-minded of the bunch. RBRM is not Bobby Brown singing his songs and Bell Biv DeVoe singing theirs. “It’s all intertwined. It’s a great night of moving between each other’s music, all those high-energy records people have grown to love. We keep it coming at you.”
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Bivins, also a noted producer who famously discovered and helped manage Boyz II Men early in that group’s career.
There’s been a lot of talk of another New Edition reunion tour since the BET series. Is that something that could happen soon?
It’s always possible. It’s just scheduling. As soon as we can lock that in and serve the fans of New Edition, we will, but this is going to keep the blood flowing. That never stops. We’re just doing what we always do. We all work all year long and then New Edition has its moments when it comes together.
How different is the experience performing as RBRM, with BBD and Bobby Brown together, from a full-on reunion?
It’s great because we are also fans of each other’s music. That’s our thing, to stay together as a family and be supportive of each other. We’re always there for each other. When you look to your left and to your right and know your man is right there and he knows your energy and he’s matching it up, that’s just instinct that comes from years of friendship and being onstage together.
A lot of people loved the TV mini-series because it really gave New Edition its due by showing how much great music came out of that group. Was that response gratifying?
BET did a hell of a job and it says a lot about them and that channel. There were a lot of people that weren’t really in support of the show when it was coming because they didn’t know what to expect. There’s always a buzz in the community that black movies don’t always look that great, aren’t shot as well or acted as great. And then “Straight Outta Compton” really raised the bar. That was the most powerful movie at a time when we needed to restore the [belief] that we make great movies and music as artists.
Our [TV movie] was such a family vibe and really an introduction to a new audience about what makes [New Edition] special. Those early songs are timeless, and now there are kids that [know them] whose parents and uncles fell in love with us back then. That was music that you didn’t have to put your hands over the kid’s ears. So that movie really took on a different life because it was not only our story but also a chance to say to black kids, “You could be that,” and for them to say, “I want to be that.” And it was a rare thing where you could have your child, your grandma, your neighbor all sitting in the living room watching a movie together.
You were a producer on the project. What do you think should have or could have been better represented in the movie?
I wish it could have shown more about the six members of the group, the parts everyone plays. I wish I could have seen more of myself and basketball. That was one part of my scenes that was sacrificed. For me, it was really a trade-off of my first love [basketball] for music and business. I would have liked one good, nice streetball scene to show people I fell in love with the game first. But there are so many working parts to a movie like that. It is surreal anytime someone does your story and so many times the artist is not around to see it or has no control.
Have you been approached about a Bell Biv DeVoe or a New Edition residency type of show in Las Vegas?
I think that would be a great piece, a great chapter to the story, when everyone happens to be ready for it. I have family and friends in Las Vegas and on the Strip. New Edition is already on the Strip with Boyz II Men. They were groomed like us and they have the blueprint, and you see the effect it has because they keep getting renewed. BBD or New Edition would be a perfect next step and Vegas has always been good to us. But on September 7 we are coming through to tear it down. We are ready for all the energy in that city. Even if you’ve seen us a thousand times, you’ve never seen us like this.
RBRM performs at 7 p.m. on Friday, September 7 poolside at the Sandbar stage at the Red Rock Resort (11011 W. Charleston Blvd., 702-797-7777) and more information can be found at stationcasinoslive.com.