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Review: At Spring Jam, Keith Sweat, Ginuwine, more stir the passions of '90s R&B lovers at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

R&B singer Ginuwine performs during the Spring Jam concert at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Friday, March 6, 2015.
R&B singer Ginuwine performs during the Spring Jam concert at the Sun Dome in Tampa on Friday, March 6, 2015.
Published Mar. 7, 2015

Spring Jam went off with only one hitch Friday night. A circuit breaker at the USF Sun Dome tripped just as Dru Hill was about to take the stage, causing the speakers to go silent and the crowd to get restless. After someone got things turned back on, the parade of well-heeled R&B stars continued to titillate and entertain a near-packed house.

The night's headliner, Keith Sweat, transported the crowd to his Sweat Hotel via a stage set that included a bar stocked with Hennessy, a leather couch and coffee table filled with roses and a comfy living room chair in front of his full live band. With that stage set, the 53-year-old New York native and radio host made himself comfortable with the fine people of the Tampa Bay area. He ran through the hits, Right and a Wrong Way, Something Just Ain't Right, Don't Stop Your Love and Get Up On It.

He admonished the men in the crowd for being reluctant to cheer. "Men should scream for me. I beg so y'all don't have to," Sweat joked.

The surprises started when he performed songs he penned for others. He co-wrote Johnny Kemp's Just Got Paid with New Jack Swing king Teddy Riley. Sweat and his hypeman, Lou, tore into old school dance moves as that groove got fans to their feet. Later, he brought Jon B. to the stage to belt Silk's Freak Me, another song Sweat penned, as he did a costume change.

He stayed all buttoned-up in his white suit for exactly one song, Make it Last Forever, before he was exposing his chest and gold chains again, making the ladies scream and reminding everyone that there was once a time when everything was about fun.

Ginuwine sang Pony in every quadrant of the Sun Dome to close out his 30-minute -- a case study in how to maintain sex appeal without lapsing into silliness (You might want to call him, Madonna.) He kept all his clothing on, even as the women clamored for him to take it off. The 44-year-old Washington, D.C. native displayed some of his sexiest moves -- dry-humping the stage, crawling toward fans -- but kept it all decidedly PG-13.

Ginuwine's big chance to show his singing chops came during So Anxious. He delivered a soulful and more powerful rendition than you'll recall, leaving many to wonder where he'd been hiding those pipes all this time. What everyone will remember is the woman he brought up for In Those Jeans. The two slow danced inside what looked like a pair of Ralphie May's jeans. People laughed but still felt a little jealous.

Dru Hill has a lot more hits than you think. During their 11-song set, they only played one non-radio single. It was astonishing, watching people know every word to everything and enjoying every run.

The guys are different from 16 years ago but surprisingly the same. Sisqo, 36, landed a front hand spring in the beginning of How Deep is Your Love and never really stopped moving and dancing the entire time he was on stage. Still a tiny firecracker, that one. Nokio, always the prettiest, grew out his beard to Lincoln proportions and is sporting gray in it to boot. Jazz is a little on the heavier side, but can still hit every note in Never Make A Promise and These Are the Times. And new member, Tao, has become the middle that holds the group together, even as he stretches his legs on stage, running whenever he gets the chance and reaching for some high notes Philip Bailey may have left behind.

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Jon B. kicked off the R&B portion of the night with his hit featuring Tupac, Are You Still Down. He played keys and sang to his hits from the LaFace Records era including They Don't Know, Someone to Love and Don't Talk. He used his platform to thank the fans for supporting him throughout his 20-year career and allowing him to continue living his dream to sing on stage.

He gave the unofficial mission statement for all the artists -- a truth no one can ignore.

"If you see I have new music, go out and support it. Support independent music," Jon B. said. "We need y'all's support. It's not like it was in the '90s."

-- Robbyn Mitchell, tbt*