BALTIMORE SPRING FEST
Keith Sweat, Dru Hill, Ginuwine, SWV, Slick Rick
The Baltimore Spring Fest went down Saturday night at the Royal Farms Arena. The show provided exactly what the thousands of screaming fans were hoping for – a throwback to the golden era of hip-hop and R&B. The set started off with DJ Kaos who got the crowd fired up with classics from the 80’s and 90’s. The night started off with a banging performance by hip-hop legend Slick Rick. His lyrical style made it clear why he is considered one of hip-hop’s greatest storytellers. He played such hits as “Mona Lisa”, “La Di Da Di “ (yes this was a song before Snoop Dogg), “Hey Young World”, and “The Show”. Six minutes! He was decked out with a selection of chains that was absolutely ridiculous; to be honest I’m surprised he didn’t topple over from the weight! Rick was wearing his trademark blinged-out eye-patch, a necessity given his history of right eye blindness dating back to an injury as an infant. His set was highlighted by a guest appearance by his wife of greater than 20 years. He seemed genuinely happy and urged the crowd to stay in committed relationships. The crowd loved Rick, and he tore the house down with earth shaking bass and an old-school hip-hop style that is sorely missed.
SWV was next to hit the stage, opening with their first hit single “Right Here” from 1992. The Grammy nominated trio from New York looked great, decked out in all black. They went on the deliver a solid vocal performance of “I’m So Into You”. Their smooth vocals were on point, just like that cassette you were listening to in 1992. They crushed a performance of “Anything”, which was even great without the Wu Tang Clan contribution. The trio took time in between songs to talk to the audience and amongst themselves. They seemed to be getting along well, and they were having a great time. They didn’t miss the chance to make a little joke about gun violence at Baltimore’s expense. The ladies did plug their reality show SWV Reunited, and confirmed a third season was in the works. Everyone’s heart was beating triple time as they blew the roof off the place with a performance of their number one hit “Weak”. The audience participation was great and the trio ended their performance with a bow.
DC’s own R&B star Ginuwine was the next to get the Royal Farms Arena rocking. He came out with tremendous energy, opening with his hit single “Hell Yeah”. He was wearing a red leather jacket and a single glove, reminiscent of Michael Jackson. Ginuwine later paid tribute to Mike by singing and dancing to “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough”, and “Billie Jean”. He called all the single ladies to the front of the stage, and got everyone dancing to “Stingy”. At one point, he was laying on stage and one of the ladies in the front row got a little handsy with his man zone. He rolled around the stage laughing and shouted “YOU NASTY BALTIMORE”. The lid was torn off the arena with his performance of “In Those Jeans”. A girl wearing an enormous pair of jeans came up on stage, and Ginuwine hopped into the oversized Wranglers. Ginuwine reminded us of his group TGT with Tyrese and Tank, followed with a quick performance of “Turn Down for What”. He ended by walking through the crowd while performing the track everyone was waiting for – “Pony”. At the end of the set, a female fan climbed on stage. Before security could haul her away, Ginuwine welcomed her with open arms and gave her a hug.
Baltimore’s homegrown power group Dru Hill came out next to their hit single “How Deep Is Your Love”. They followed with a thunderous rock remix of “How Deep Is Your Love” that turned it up a notch. I love the story about their humble beginnings singing at The Fudgery in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. You gotta appreciate the home town love in naming themselves after Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. Larry Jazz Anthony is a big guy with a huge voice as he showed off his range throughout the set. Nokio went solo to debut a new song, pulling three ladies on stage to serenade. There was a stripper pole equipped with a dancer, and Nokio made it rain by the end of the song. Dru Hill brought a ton of energy to the set in performing classics like “We’re Not Making Love No More”, “In My Bed”, and “5 Steps”. It was nice to see former Dru Hill member Scola join the group for the “5 Steps” performance.
The headliner of the night was R&B legend Keith Sweat. Keith has been going hard for the better part of three decades. His set was essentially a living room with a black leather couch and coffee table in the center. He stood alone as the only artist with a live band performing with him. He came out to roaring applause wearing a black velour three-piece suit. Keith opened the set with “Something Just Ain’t Right”, and followed this up with stunning renditions of “My Body” and “Get Up On It”. This was classic Keith Sweat with his signature nasally voice belting out our favorite slow jams. His backup singers crushed a cover of “Freak Me” that really got the crowd riled up while he stepped off stage briefly for a wardrobe change. Keith came back dressed in an all-white suit and accompanied by Dru Hill. Nokio from Dru Hill shared that they have a long history with Keith, and they performed the song he had set them up with – “Share My World”. Keith became emotional and dropped a bomb on the crowd – his sister had passed away from pancreatic cancer the morning of the show. He said that he planned to cancel the show, but decided to push through because that is what his sister would want. Keith began to cry, and the guys from Dru Hill joined him in a group hug. He asked the guys from Dru Hill to stay on stage with him and continued with his hit song “Twisted”. The crowd went nuts, and he followed this with “Nobody”. The guys from Dru Hill complimented Keith well, and they really showed off their vocal range. They ended the night with a crowd-pleasing cover of “Candy” by Cameo.
The Baltimore Spring Fest was a welcome trip down memory lane to the golden era of hip-hop and R&B. The performers brought great energy to the show, and demonstrated their phenomenal talents. The fans were great, and seemed to really appreciate the energy and efforts of the artists. What a phenomenal way to spend a Saturday night. To see more pictures from the show, check out the ones from Athletchic below.
Jason Grieshober is a freelance writer for Athletchic. You can follow Athletchic on twitter at @Athletchic.