Jon B and Ryan Leslie at Central Park Summerstage, NYC

Ernest Barteldes By

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Jon B and Ryan Leslie at Central Park Summerstage
New York, New York
August 9, 2009

Vocalist Chrisette Michelle was a no-show last Sunday (according to a source, she cancelled two days before, but no further explanation was given), but that didn't stop fans from once again filling Rumsey Playfield to capacity for this showcase of neo-soul music—a genre that has been omnipresent during this season.

One of the main attractions for the afternoon was Rhode Island-born Jon B, who unfortunately gave a disappointing performance. In spite of having a four-piece band behind him, he relied mostly on playback tracks (albeit with live vocals) while the musicians played along with the prerecorded music. The sole completely "live" portion of the set came when he paid tribute to Michael Jackson (for whom he wrote a number of songs over the years) with a solid rendition of "Rock With You." The fans didn't seem to notice the gimmick, though, and sang along with him during most of the show, which lasted about 45 minutes.

A few moments later, the proceedings got more interesting as singer-songwriter and producer Ryan Leslie hit the stage, kicking off his set with "Nothing," a tune from his upcoming disc. The audience cheered loudly as he presented the song, which had elements of reggae, rap and soul. He was backed by four musicians, and at times also played keyboards and guitar.

The set was mostly dominated by ballads, but he also amped up the excitement with some clever up-tempo tunes like his breakthrough single "Diamond Girl" and "The Way U Move Girl." His band was excellent, especially his bassist, who played an extended solo halfway through the show.

The audience fully appreciated what was going on stage, and Leslie fed from that energy, returning it to fans with a memorable, breathtaking performance.


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