Soul Shines at Summerstage

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Neither the threat of rain, nor a a cancellation by Chrisette Michele could deter the thousands of soul music fans who lined up in Central Park for the free Summerstage concert this past Sunday. Their persistence paid off with great performances by 1990s stars Case, Jon B and Deborah Cox and two of today’s biggest artists, Ryan Leslie and Jazmine Sullivan.

The show opened with a performance by Case, whose latest album, the Rose Experience, was released in March. The R&B crooner gave a sexy performance of his new single with an audience member that left the crowd squealing. He topped off the set with performances of two of his biggest hits, “Touch Me, Tease Me” and “Missing You.”

Up next was Jon B. The blue eyed soul singer alternated between standing and playing keyboards as he took the crowd back to a time when he was a mainstay on the radio with “Someone to Love,” “They Don’t Know” and “R U Still Down”. However, his lackluster performance of “Rock With You” as a tribute to Michael Jackson, left somethings to be desired.

The show really got started when Ryan Leslie took to the stage. The artist/producer gave the crowd a preview of the song “Nothing” from his upcoming album. The crowd erupted in cheers as he jumped, spun and hopped across the stage as he directed his stellar band. As if that weren’t enough, he also played the keyboards and guitar with such fervor, it brought to mind memories of a young Prince. (I love Prince. I do not give such accolades lightly, but Leslie deserves it).

Up next was vocal powerhouse Deborah Cox. From the first note Deborah reminded the crowd of why she was one of the best R&B vocalists of the 1990s, and still today. She performed a solo version of “We Can’t Be Friends” her duet with RL (of the boyband Next), followed by a her new single “Thank You for Saying Goodbye.” She incited the crowd to cheer for the only encore of the night after the performance of her biggest hit, “Nobody’s Supposed to be Here.”

After a rather lengthy prerecorded audio history of her journey to break into the music industry, Jazmine Sullivan came to the stage and started off with the ultimate scorned lover song, “Bust Your Windows” followed by “Dream Big,” “Hurricane” and “One Night Stand” from her debut album Fearless. She told the crowd “Never be comfortable being stagnant. Always try to elevate yourself” as she updated the crowd on her career. She performed her rendition of the Cotton song (“the touch the feel of cotton, the fabric of our lives” haha, yes that one) and Kanye West’s “Heartless”. As Sullivan ended the show with her first single “Need U Bad,” the first drops of rain began to fall.

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