Babyface, Stokley bring decades of hits to Stockbridge Amphitheater

Babyface performs at Stockbridge Amphitheater on 09/16/2023.


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Babyface performs at Stockbridge Amphitheater on 09/16/2023.



Attending a Babyface concert is like going to five, six or 10 shows in one.

Because the singer is also a prolific songwriter who has written for everyone from Boyz II Men to Toni Braxton to Fall Out Boy, his shows often include a dizzying rundown of songs that are chart toppers for others.

And the roster was deep during his appearance Saturday at the Stockbridge Amphitheater.

Want to see Bobby Brown? Babyface had you covered with songs he wrote or co-wrote for the New Edition breakout star, including “Roni,” “Every Little Step,” “Rock Wit’cha” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

“OK y’all the time has come for the true king of R&B. The man himself, Bobby Brown. And we’re about to get our Bobby on,” Babyface said before performing the singer’s hits, complete with New Edition-like dance routines with his band and background singers, who often shared lead on songs.

Interested in TLC in their prime, Babyface offered “Creep” and “Red Light District.”

How about Boyz II Men? He had that too, singing the mega ballads he wrote, including “End of the Road,” and “I’ll Make Love to You.” Dru Hill fans received love with “We’re Not Making Love Anymore” while the singer paid homage to Johnny Gill with “Fairweather Friend,” “There You Go” and “My, My, My.”

Other hits included Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry,” Tevin Campbell’s ”Can We Talk,” Midnight Star’s “Slow Jam,” Toni Braxton’s “You’re Makin’ Me High,” you get the picture.



“Every since I was a little boy, I’ve been writing songs and stuff,” he said. “I thought it might be nice to do a medley of songs for everybody I wrote for.”

The show was a triumphant return of sorts to the metro area for Babyface. He was last in Atlanta at State Farm Arena in February, opening for the songstress herself, Anita Baker. Months later Baker would drop him from her tour ostensibly over drama related to Babyface being asked to sit out a date in New Jersey so the “Rapture” singer could do a full set. (The response to that request did not go over well with Babyface fans).

And while the artists he wrote for weren’t there, he had a strong opening act in Stokley. The former lead singer for R&B group Mint Condition put on an energetic show that had him bouncing across the stage frenetically. He came out heavy with the guitar-laden “Recipe” that suggested more Prince-like rock sensibilities than the ballads he is more known for.



His set was playful and skilled, with everything from the late night vibe of “She” to Mint Condition’s “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) getting the crowd on its feet. In between, he displayed his versatility on covers of The S.O.S Band’s “Tell Me If You Still Care,” Rick James’ “You and I” and The Time’s “Cool.”

But back to Babyface. While the second act of his Saturday performance delved into the catalogue of hits he penned for others, it didn’t mean he neglected tunes he sang himself.

He opened the concert with “Change the World,” his Grammy Award-winning duet with legendary rocker Eric Clapton. Other hits followed, from “Every Time I Close My Eyes” and its Mariah Carey-backed vocals to the ultra-smooth “For the Cool of You” and the plaintive “When Can I See You.”

And what would a Babyface concert be without the silky strut of “Whip Appeal,” his signature ballad. Everyone in the crowd swayed left and right as they sang the song’s chorus, “Whatever you want/It’s alright with me/’Cause you’ve got that whip appeal/So work it on me.”

To close, Babyface dimmed the lights and his piano player began playing a gentle melody. Many recognized the chords -- the opening for Whitney Houston’s “Exhale (Shoop, Shoop)” -- and a hush fell over the venue.

“In 1995 I had the honor and the pleasure of writing and producing this next song for one of the greatest artists of all time, Ms. Whitney Houston,” Babyface said as clouds rolled across a screen at the back of the stage.

Houston’s face slowly appeared on screen, flashing through and then fading behind the puffy blue clouds. The outdoor amphitheater glowed with cellphone lights in approval.

“Everyone falls in love sometimes,” Houston cooed softly.

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