Freestyle legends Stevie B. and Lisa Lisa headlined at the Super Freestyle Explosion on Saturday, February 27 at CFE Arena. Orlando’s freestyle and old school fans also saw Expose, Jody Watley, The Jets, Timmy T, Zapp, Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, JoJo of The Mary Jane Girls, Freestyle, and JJ Fad in what is promoted as “Orlando’s biggest Freestyle concert of the year”.
Orlando’s freestyle and old school fans came together to see their favorite artists perform the biggest rhythmic radio dance hits that emanated in the late 80’s and 90’s, and spread like wild fire on radio throughout the country. The Super Freestyle Explosion is presented by Pacific Concert Group.
I’m not sure if I was spoiled by the previous Legends Of The Old School concert back in November, but I was expecting the same or better for this Super Freestyle Explosion concert. I purposely sat in the same section, but on the lower level, so that I would get about the same experience as I did at the Legends Of The Old School & Sarah Brightman concerts inside the same arena.
I was given the Super Freestyle Explosion flyer (shown above) on my way out of the Legends Of The Old School concert last November, which was a good no-brainer promotions move. When I saw the lineup, I was wondering why there were R&B acts performing at a Freestyle concert. I didn’t think too much of it, since the only act I saw before on the list was Expose, & I looked forward to seeing all 11 acts when I bought the ticket.
Well, the night started unfolding in the very first act, which was Jojo, the lead singer of the Mary Jane Girls. The flyer for this event listed her songs “All Night Long”, “Candy Man”, & “In My House”, which she did, & nothing more, for a total of less than 15 minutes. After her performance, I knew to expect an abridged performance for each act. Little did I know that it was going to be abridged even more for later acts! I’ll get to that in a couple of paragraphs.
The concert started at 7:30pm with D. Royale of 104.5 The Beat as the host of the night. 104.5 The Beat is a Hip Hop & R&B radio station in Orlando through iHeartMedia. I honestly thought a much better radio station to represent this concert was 105.9 Sunny FM, a Classic Hits radio station in Orlando through CBS Radio that actually plays Freestyle music & some of these artists’ music during their Saturday Night Classic Dance Showcase.
Alas, the folks at Pacific Concert Group promotions decided on a bigger cluster hoping for a bigger reach rather than a direct audience target. Well, they did get the reach, but not the right audience. Sitting on my left was a girl, probably in her 20’s, who was bored & didn’t know any of the songs or artists with her friend who dragged her along. They both ended up leaving mid-concert. To the right of me was a poor old lady who was probably well over 60 with her husband. Next to her husband was his daughter, in her 40’s, who obviously dragged both of them along, because they had their hand to their head as if they had a headache for the duration of their stay, which they also ended up leaving mid-concert. But I digress.
Sidetracking on the technical side, whoever was mixing the audio had everyone’s mic too hot & the overall mix of pre-recorded & live channels was everywhere for every single act. The mix was way better & more balanced in the Old School concert in the same venue last November. As a former audio technician, I was cringing at the loud levels throughout the night. Good thing I put on my earplugs to protect my hearing!
On toward the next act at 7:45pm, which was The Jets, a group I remembered listening to when I was a little kid in elementary school in the middle-to-late 80s. The flyer listed their songs “Crush On You”, “Make It Real”, & “You Got It All”, which they also performed verbatim for a total of less than 15 minutes. I was expecting more hits like “Curiosity” & “Rocket 2 U”.
It is already 8pm & we are already in the 3rd performer, who was Timmy T. “Time After Time” & “One More Try” was listed on the flyer, which he performed verbatim for less than 10 minutes. I am not a fan of cookie-cutter playlists, so the night started to get disappointing for me. If he would of busted out the song “What Will I Do”, which I have on 12″ vinyl single, I wouldn’t have started to be disappointed in how the night was going. Even though “One More Try” is one of my favorite Freestyle slow jams of all time, & 2 awesome talented dancers on roller skates performed next to him during “Time After Time”, I still wanted more.
The next act was Freestyle, listed on the flyer with “The Party Has Just Begun”, “Don’t Stop The Rock”, & “It’s Automatic”. Well, they did not perform “The Party Has Just Begun” & their performance was sloppy, only singing parts of every line of lyrics in both of their songs, as if they forgot the lyrics to their own song! They replaced it with “throw your hands in the air”, “the roof is on fire”, & other old school chants repeatedly during their 10 minute performance. I also have the 12″ vinyl single of “In Your Face”, so there’s 2 songs that was missed. I looked at the time & it was only 8:15pm with 4 performers already done.
Next up was J.J. Fad, listed with “Supersonic” & “Let’s Get Hyped”. They started out introducing their DJ who was the original DJ of N.W.A. He played a quick bar of Eazy-E before following it with “Supersonic”. At the end of the song, the lyrics go “That was it!” & they suddenly just walked off stage. They only performed ONE song! I don’t know what the promoter or event coordinator was thinking. You do not book a performer, make them travel from city to city, & tell them to only perform just one song (or even two). That’s straight up disrespect to the artist & their fans. I wanted J.J. Fad to perform “Way Out” instead of just “Supersonic”! Yes, they were on stage for a total of about 5 minutes! I said out loud this time, quoting the end of their hit song in its question form, “That was it?!” That was the moment I dreaded being shorted for the rest of the night with 5 performers done in less than an hour! Unfortunately, that was the only time the turntables onstage was ever used. It was striked offstage before Zapp’s performance.
Evelyn Champagne King, listed with “Love Come Down”, “Shame”, & “Betcha She Don’t Love You” did just that, plus a random cover of Shalamar’s “A Night To Remember” in another 15 minutes of fame. She also played on the bongos for a little bit, which was the only live instrument so far in this concert. The rest of the concert was performed with pre-recorded backing tracks, so I don’t know how the audio technician failed to mix properly. I could even tell there was a limiter working very hard by this point, because every time the vocalist stopped singing, the pre-recorded music went back to a higher volume level. But, again, I digress.
It was almost 9pm. The 7th performer was Jody Watley, listed with “Looking For A New Love”, “Real Love”, “Everything”, & “Don’t You Want Me”. This was one of the better performances of the night (Finally!) as she had backup dancers & choreography along with her singing. Jody Watley also performed “Friends” & even rapped Eric B. & Rakim’s part of the song (horribly). The performances started to get even more fulfilling starting from this point, but my disappointment still clouds over me from the last 6. This one actually lasted just less than a half hour.
Now for the performance that I hadn’t expected. Zapp came in with a set & props with some creative lighting & costumes. The only other performer I have seen doing a vocoder live was Solillaquists Of Sound, & I was so giddy when they started vocalizing! Probably the very first performer of the night with all live instrumentation & it made a heck of a difference! There were 2 keyboards, a drum set, & a couple of prop vocoder stands with the word Zapp in front of it. The most memorable performance of the night, as the lights go out during & their suits light up. They even surprised the crowd by travelling around the floor level offstage while performing. They were listed as “Zapp”, not Zapp & Roger, & performed “More Bounce To The Ounce”, “So Ruff So Tuff”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “I Can Make You Dance”, & “Computer Love”. They also performed Roger Troutman’s part of 2 Pac’s hit “California Love”. The only hit they missed that I can think of was “Dance Floor”, but I was just starting to get satisfied with the night as it improved from one song to a good few hits.
After Zapp left the stage, there was a brief intermission to get ready for the true Freestyle performers. By this time, which was about 9:45pm, I was already disappointed in 6 of the last 8 performances, with only 3 more to go. That’s already more than half of the performances in total I was disappointed with throughout the night. It can only get better, right?
Expose came out with more of a medley of songs than full performances. They were listed with the songs “Point Of No Return”, “Come Go With Me”, “Seasons Change”, & “Let Me Be The One”. They also performed “What You Don’t Know” & even performed one of Gioia Bruno’s more recent solo Dance songs. Expose totally missed “I’ll Never Get Over You Getting Over Me”, which they performed at Epcot & performed a lot better there.
One of the better performances of the night was Lisa Lisa, listed with “Can You Feel The Beat”, “I Wonder If I Take You Home”, “All Cried Out”, & “Lost In Emotion”. She also performed “Head To Toe”, “Let The Beat Hit ‘Em”, & to my surprise, the lesser known “Let’s Git It Together”, which I also have on 12″ vinyl single. She was the best singer of the night (even being off a little at times), in my opinion. My Lisa Lisa appetite (after over 20 years) has been satisfied!
Finally, what everyone (well, the ones who stayed) were waiting for – Stevie B. He brought 2 keyboardists, a bongo drummer, guitarist, & drummer. Besides Zapp, he was only the second performer with a full band, along with a backing pre-recorded track. Listed with the songs “Spring Love”, “Party Your Body”, “Because I Love You”, & “I Wanna Be The One”, he also included “Dreamin’ Of Love”, “In My Eyes”, & a couple others even I haven’t even heard of! He was great at crowd participation, but when he was singing, it was with a swing that took his classic songs to a different direction. I preferably like the artists to sing the songs as close to the original, especially if it’s a classic song to sing along to.
Overall, the concert was meh. The best performance of the night goes to Zapp! If I had to rate it, it would be a 7 out of 10, which is a very generous rating considering I’m still disappointed in how most of the night went. Even though I got to see some performers for the 1st time, I missed out on deeper tracks & their overall presentation. The concert ended before midnight. (The Legends Of The Old School concert lasted past 1am with Vanilla Ice still hanging out on stage conversing & taking pics with fans!) I can now cross off these artists from my bucket list, but I know now to watch out for the name “Pacific Concert Group” next time I see it. (I would go to another “Johnny Quest” Old School concert, though!)
Even though D. Royale from 104.5 The Beat did a great job holding up the crowd in between sets, there should have also been a live DJ to fill in the time & keep the crowd hyped, especially with a themed show. It would be so easy (at least for me) to spin TRUE Freestyle songs instead of Hip Hop & Sade (WHY?!), which they played during intermission. You also CANNOT book non-Freestyle acts to perform for an event that is labeled “Freestyle”! That is a disservice to the genre of music well-known in regional parts of the world.
DJ Mo’s Ratings:
Stevie B: 7/10
Evelyn Champagne King: 7/10
J.J. Fad: 5/10
Jody Watley: 8/10
Lisa Lisa: 9/10
The Jets: 7/10
Jojo (Mary Jane Girls): 7/10
Timmy T: 6/10