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A triumphant homecoming for New Edition at TD Garden

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 3/3/2022 Maura Johnston
New Edition onstage at TD Garden Wednesday night. © Matthew J Lee/Globe staff New Edition onstage at TD Garden Wednesday night.

New Edition’s set on Wednesday night at TD Garden opened with an homage to the six-man vocal group — as a video screen displayed a restless radio dial, snippets of hip-hop lyrics referencing the band, laid down by mega-names like LL Cool J and Nicki Minaj, floated through the air. When the members, clad in Tiffany-blue trench coats and matching hats, appeared onstage, they were greeted with a heroes’ welcome. They saluted the crowd right back by launching into “Candy Girl,” the R&Bubblegum cut that launched them out of Roxbury and into pop’s stratosphere some 39 years ago.

The story of New Edition since that 1983 release has been a part of American pop history. Originally a quintet but on Wednesday a six-piece made up of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill, and Ralph Tresvant, the group had laid down the template for the modern boy band, with harmonies and dance moves that were in sync and personalities that meshed just well enough to fill teen-magazine questionnaires. “We tried to be like the Jackson 5,” Bivins noted about the band’s early years, “but tonight we get to be Boston’s own New Edition.”

New Edition grew up, broke apart, and came back together in various formations. But their collective legacy remains strong; tracks like New Edition’s pulsing Tresvant showcase “If It Isn’t Love” and the serpentine “Poison,” by the splinter group Bell Biv DeVoe, remain some of the best pure pop moments of the ‘80s/’90s cusp, while other cuts like Gill’s thumping “Rub You the Right Way” and Brown’s tabloid broadside “My Prerogative” helped define the chart-dominating hip-hop/R&B hybrid known as New Jack Swing.


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On Wednesday, New Edition celebrated their homecoming with a fast-paced, hook-filled set, powering through 25 tracks from their amassed catalogs over about an hour and a half. The six members cycled on and off stage as songs and costume changes demanded, their dance moves backed up by a boisterous crew who kept the energy level feisty or languorous, depending on each song’s mood. Tresvant’s silky tenor and Gill’s booming bellow acted as vocal counterweights, with Brown’s defiant swagger and the playful spirit of Bell, Bivins, and DeVoe rounding out the onstage vibe.

The night ended with “Can You Stand the Rain,” a sparkling ballad that’s become one of the group’s foundational tracks. It’s an interrogation of a lover’s ability to withstand a relationship’s tougher times, but it could have doubled as a salute to the way New Edition was able to celebrate its four-decade legacy in front of a rapturous audience.

NEW EDITION

With Charlie Wilson and Jodeci. At TD Garden, Wednesday

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