KISSIMMEE — Brought to you by Ford … this weekend’s entertainment line-up at the Allstate Tom Joyner Family reunion had the crowd overjoyed with anticipation.
While the audience waited to see Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Kevon Edmonds and Keith Sweat, videos and classic songs from the likes of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Bel Biv Devoe and Cameo soared through the sound system in a rhythm that made people get up and dance.
After comedians Chris Paul and Huggy Lowdown brought out the laughter, the event’s host and sponsor, Tom Joyner of the syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, came onto the stage to introduce the Babyface — who walked dressed in a white suit that glowed and made him look angelic. His voice was electrifying and soul-penetrating as he moved the crowd and had them singing along to such tunes as “For the Cool in You,” “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” “Sunshine,” “Where Will You Go” and “Soon As I Get Home” — to name just a few!
During the early 1980’s, Babyface was a part of the group called The Deele. On Friday night, he reminisced on this time period, noting, “In 1983, our very first tour was with Luther Vandross and Debarge.”
Babyface was not bashful in sharing his admiration for El Debarge.
“I would be off to the side of the stage watching and admiring, saying, ‘Dang, dang El is bad,’ ” he said.
He paid tribute to El Debarge by singing his song “Love Me in a Special Way.” After years of admiring the talents that El Debarge has when it comes to writing and producing songs, Babyface said he “promised to write sings himself,” and so he did — and sang a medley of songs for the audience that he wrote and produced.
His brother older Kevon Edmonds joined him on the stage; according the movement of the crowd, the two sounded great together. Edmonds was once a part of the group After 7, which scored several No. 1 hits in the late 1980’s, including “Ready or Not” and “Can’t Stop.” Edmonds released his first solo album in 1999, “24/7.”
As Babyface wrapped up his performance, Joyner once again joined him on stage to sing and dance along with the R&B artist; the feel of a family was definitely in the air at this part of the Tom Joyner Family Reunion!
It didn’t end there, though. Joyner brought on another performer who took the crowd back down memory lane. Keith Sweat, known for loving the ladies through his lyrics, made the crowd long for more as the lights were turned down low and lots of red flowers were placed at the edge of the stage.
Sweat started with one of his more upbeat tunes, “Don’t Stop Your Love,” but then ‘broke it down,’ reaching the hearts of the ladies in the audience with such songs as, “There You Go (Tellin Me No Again),” “Nobody,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Just One of Them Thangs” and “Right and a Wrong Way.” In 1987, Sweat released his solo album “Make It Last Forever,” and on Friday night he sang several songs from that album; the women in the audience waved their hands from left to right and one woman shouted out that his voice “sounds so good.”
Sweat knows a lot of people refer to him as begging the women and said, “I’m going to beg all night long” and went on to say, “Now fellas, I’m going to beg so you don’t have to beg.”
Sweat took a moment to remember his friend Gerald Levert, saying “I miss you, man,” before singing “My Body,” a song that Levert, Sweat and Johnny Gil sang together as LSG.
There were people who had traveled from all parts of the country to be a part of the reunion, held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee. Included in the audience of the resort’s ballrooms were CNN Political Analyst Rowland Martin, Terry and Rebecca Crews of The Crews Family Show. Boris Kodjoe also made an onstage guest appearance.
In the Osceola Ballroom of the Gaylord Palms Resorts, everyone truly had a “Night to Remember” with Babyface, Edmonds and Sweat!
As the performances were brought to an end, Joyner had the chairs moved out of everyone’s way to create a dance floor so that the audience could dance at the ‘old school after party’ until the wee hours of the morning. It was quite thoughtful that Joyner ensured the children had babysitters and fun and games while the parents enjoyed the entertainment – a family reunion!