It was New Jack Swing time last night at “ATL Live on the Park,” the monthly concert series/showcase held at Park Tavern.
While the event is known to spotlight big names while also giving upstarts a platform, the August edition was a special gathering that honored Teddy Riley, the King of New Jack Swing, who performed a solo set and was later joined by his group mates in BLACKstreet.
But before Riley, clad in a dark blazer and baseball cap, got situated behind a keyboard, he received a couple of awards – first from Atlanta-based music exec Devyne Stephens, who presented Riley with the “Icon” award for his commitment to the entertainment industry and then from Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who handed Riley a plaque that commended him for “his contributions as a producer, songwriter and artist” to the city of Atlanta.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to bring R&B back to the forefront,” Riley said after accepting Mitchell’s award.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, comedians Wayne Brady and Rodney Perry and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” Peter Thomas were among those in attendance. TV executive Ryan Glover, making his first public outing since the death of son Kile last month, was also singled out in the crowd.
But those in the packed tent on Park Tavern’s deck were awaiting some music from Riley, the Harlem-born-former-Virginian-turned-Atlantan and for about 30 minutes, he brought the crowd on a nostalgic romp.
He mostly stayed behind his keyboard and used a vocoder on a medley that included Guy’s “Let’s Chill,” Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” Johnny Kemp’s “Just Got Paid” and Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” – all songs Riley co-wrote or produced.
“All these songs went number one because of you,” Riley, backed by a DJ, two keyboardists and a drummer, told the crowd before grabbing a mic to pace the stage and rap through a spirited “Rump Shaker.”
Riley soon invited his BLACKstreet mates to join him, sending the crowd into a spasm of joyful cheers when Lenny Harold, Dave Hollister, Chauncey Black, and Tony Tyler climbed on stage.
Riley noted that there is a BLACKstreet album in the works – “It’s 95 percent finished…it’s a baby-makin’ album” – before the guys, wearing matching black suits, performed a harmonically tight mini-set including “Don’t Leave Me” and “No Diggity.”
Since “ATL Live on the Park” is also about new talent, the event showcased some fledgling artists on Stephens’ new label, UM3G – Mishon, Amber Bullock, Brittnee Camelle, Saint Nick and Marques Anthony.
For info on the series, check out http://atlliveonthepark.com/.