Playing into his reputation for having friction with his group members, which prompted them to kick him out on more than one occasion, Brown purposely showed up late for the performance, tricking the audience into believing that he wasn't going to participate in the show. "I'm sorry I'm late, but I showed up," he joked. "I'm the crazy one out of the bunch but I'm happy to be here."
Dressed in matching white suit jackets and black pants, the six members stayed true to fans' expectations, dancing in sequence, as they rolled through their boyhood singles 'Candygirl,' 'Mr. Telephone Man' and 'Jealous Girl.'
With 28 years in the business, group member Ralph Tresvant expressed his happiness at being able to all share the stage again. "It feels good to get all six of us on stage," he said. "It wasn't easy but we're here."
Over the years, each group member has gone on to do solo projects, of which they were all given an opportunity to showcase some of their singles. Johnny Gil performed his 1990 hit 'My, My, My,' as well as new music, while Brown chose 'Tenderoni' and 'My Prerogative' for his singular performance. Fellow group members Ricky Bell, Ronnie Devoe and Micheal Bivins, who at one point formed the trio Bell Biv Devoe, also sang their hit single 'Poison.'
The group closed the show with 'Can You Stand the Rain,' as a commentary on the trials and tribulations they have faced over the last two plus decades.
This year's Essence Music Festival returned to the New Orleans Superdome for the three-day event beginning July 1. For more information visit www.essence.com.