Ashanti, Ginuwine - Celebrity Theatre - 5/9/2014
Jim Louvau Ashanti performed with Ginuwine at the Celebrity Theatre on Friday, May 9. Full slideshow here.
The vibe of last night's Celebrity Theatre concert was certainly "Grown and Sexy" -- as the name of the tour suggests. It had handcuffs, leather, hip thrusts, sweaty towels, dozens of roses, and two R&B artists who've probably made your bedroom play list in some former life (even if it was a not-so-sexy hairbrush-karaoke sleepover in eighth grade -- guilty).
The lineup is initially a little anachronistic, but when you look at their pop culture peaks, the two intertwine. Ginuwine saw the bulk of his success in the late '90s and early 2000s. Ashanti came on the scene in the early 2000s. She was the first female artist to hold the top two places on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at the time, and she tied another record by having three songs in the Billboard Top 10 in the same week (only the Beatles had achieved this previously). There was a time when she was often mentioned in the same sentence as Beyonce and Alicia Keys. It's science and basic statistics -- this show seems tailored for people who were music consumers and main decision makers in CD purchases between 1999 and 2003.
Ginuwine has been performing just over 20 years. Ashanti has been recording for about 20 years too, though she got her start when she still could have been performing with a hairbrush at a sleepover (that's 14 years old, by the way). Point being -- these two are on equal playing fields at this point in their careers. The only difference on stage is that Ginuwine is a performer comfortable in his skin and Ashanti seems to be going through an artistic and professional shift, with a lot to say about life and the recent release of her first independent album, Braveheart.
Let's start with Ginuwine.
Ginuwine is a performer, a ham in a white suit. At the show, UrbanAZ auctioned off a signed guitar for $700 while Ginuwine posed with audience members for $20 prints (according to an audience member whose date purchased one). He had some air sex with a girl in the front row on two occasions and threw roses and incited hair-pulling fits over his sweaty towels. He knows how to work the crowd and negotiate his way into adoration. It's intoxicatingly fun to watch.
Ginuwine and his six-person band took the stage in all-white outfits and launched into a medley covering Ginuwine's discography ("Same Ol' G"/"Hell Yeah"/"Trouble"/"Only When Ur Lonely"/"When Doves Cry"/"I Know"/"I'll Do Anything/I'm Sorry"). He worked the audience, particularly one blonde in a red dress who welcomed/encouraged serious hip rolls in her face (later in the show he returned and she beat on his abdomen -- it seemed as Chippendalian as it sounds).
After gauging the crowd, which was on his side from the get-go and hanging on his every note at this point, Ginuwine and his two backup vocalists took turns serenading the audience. The idea was for Ginuwine to prove he wanted all the ladies and they wanted him back -- even more than his sweet-voiced counterparts -- or it just could have been a cute intro to the song "Stingy."
After buttering the audience up with some Marvin Gaye, Ginuwine took the first of many trips into the glittery crowd, and was immediately pulled under by a riptide of arms (at one point during the situation he mentioned, albeit coolly, his wife). When he resurfaced, he launched into Michael Jackson's "Lady in My Life."
After a quick mention of his other recording project TGT (his group with fellow R&B artists Tyrese and Tank that released its debut, Three Kings, last year), Ginuwine took things to a calmer place with a song he said he hadn't performed in a while, "Heaven," off Elgin.
The dance moves picked up with "So Anxious" and the entire theater was ready to power through "In Those Jeans," during which he held front-rowers' hands and afterwards threw half a dozen roses into the crowd.
The whole show felt like a crowd-appreciation night, but Ginuwine took a few seconds to ask everyone to light up the theater with his or her cellphones. Lit up or not, the crowd launched into the first few verses of "Differences" on cue and without Ginuwine's lead. The last show of the night could have only been and was "Pony," after which more roses were tossed into the crowd and Ginuwine left the stage so his band could jam a little.