Chico DeBarge took a packed New York City crowd back to 1997 on August 13 with a set devoted almost entirely to “Long Time No See,” which was a Billboard Top 20 R & B Album the year it was released. After a brief but soulful opening performance by singer Rachel Brown, DeBarge took to the stage in a button-down white shirt, skinny black tie, dark pants and sunglasses. Women screamed as soon as his mischievous grin appeared under the club lights. In a nod to his formerly famous siblings, DeBarge began his set with the hit song “I Like It.” Though DeBarge normally sings as a tenor, he showed the crowd that he has no problem hitting the high notes his brothers used to hit.
The DeBarge siblings are perhaps just as well-known for the drugs and prison sentences as they are for the singing and Chico DeBarge is no exception. He has never tried to hide the drugs and incarceration in his past, though he doesn’t glamorize those aspects of his life either, and it is no coincidence that the name of his sixth solo album (released July 14, 2009) is “Addiction.”
He has a new album to promote and he did stay behind to sell and sign “Addiction,” but for his S.O.B’s nightclub performance DeBarge stuck to what he knew would move the crowd. DeBarge belted out “Long Time No See” favorites like “Love Still Good” and “Virgin” while sometimes playing the keyboard and always interacting with the crowd. He sounded just like his 12-year-old album and it didn’t appear the 43-year-old singer had aged a day. DeBarge slightly altered a well-known line from the sexy single “Iggin’ Me” by saying “Does he take 500 years of slavery out on that pu$$y like I do baby?” The screams reached fever pitch.
The audience was respectful, but there were a number of women in attendance who were trying everything to get DeBarge’s attention whether that was rubbing his stomach from the front row (which he encouraged) or yelling “It’s my birthday!” in hopes of perhaps a Jeremih type of gift.
DeBarge sometimes used a towel to dry his now trademark baldhead and the tie came off by the end of the night. His band segued from “Ms. Wonderful” into an homage to another musical family by playing the Jackson 5’s “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground).” DeBarge kept the momentum going for his last song of the night. As the opening chords to “No Guarantee” filled up the intimate venue, the crowd–fresh off of its Michael Jackson rush–kept up the enthusiasm with a new wave of screams. When the chorus was ending after the first verse, R & B singer Joe jumped on stage and sang the second verse. Billed only as a “surprise guest,” Joe was heartily welcomed by the DeBarge fans.
At the end of the show, DeBarge graciously thanked the audience and everyone who gave an ex-convict like himself a chance. He again noted the difference between acknowledging and glamorizing. As the house lights came up, women donning stilettos, short skirts, tight dresses and confident smiles had already started to form a long line. They wanted something. “Addiction.”