ne-yo_web.jpgMIAMI — With over six Grammys under his belt, major international tours all over the globe, 10 Billboard Chart number-one hits, and millions and millions of fans all over the world, Ne-Yo clearly will soon be dubbed the undisputed prince of R&B.

In an incredibly flawless performance, Ne-Yo shut down the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County on Thursday, Feb. 4, with all proceeds going to Haiti Relief efforts. But new artist and surprise performer Verse Simmonds first took the stage that evening.
The Fort Lauderdale-based Simmonds brought his sultry and sexual flair to the stage as he mixed his unique style of hip-hop, soca rhythms and island-boy grooves.

The Puerto Rican-born and St. Thomas-raised singer is no stranger to the limelight. He performed like a natural, singing his hit single, currently playing all over the South Florida airwaves, "Buy You A Round (Up & Down)."

Following Simmonds performance was outstanding and extremely talented R&B male group Jagged Edge, consisting of twin brothers Brian and Brandon Casey, as well as Kyle Norman and Richard Wingo.

Since the group’s members have been missing in action for about four years without an album release, some casual observers might assume the group has lost its touch. But that was far from truth.

The quartet, which recently signed with Miami based Slip-N-Slide Records, hit the stage waving Haitian flags.  They sang almost all of their chart-topping hits, including "Promise," and the all-time classic "Let's Get Married."

"We're grateful to be here and we've been working more than anything so we love the support and we want people to lookout for the new album this year," Brandon Casey told the South Florida Times.

After such great appetizers, everyone in the audience was ready for the main course: Ne-Yo himself.

The anticipation came to light when Y100-FM radio personality MC Cris Cruz, in a poor attempt to stall, asked if anyone knew a good joke. Eight-year-old Branden Bush raised his hand eagerly.

He walked up to the stage and gingerly said, “Knock knock.’’

The audience responded, “Who’s there?”

He said, “Ne-Yo.’’

The crowd said, “Ne-Yo who?”

He said, “Ne-Yo's going to perform tonight!”

The audience seemed to find this quite amusing, and it was all they needed as
Ne-Yo hit the stage in a dark, 3-piece suit with the swagger of a 1960s Rat Pack gentleman boss.

Ne-Yo made his way to each side of the stage, serenading ladies with his hits, "So Sick," "Because Of You" and "Miss Independent."

He first gained national success in the music business as an accomplished songwriter, helping established artists to achieve hit singles like "Let Me Love You" for Mario and "Irreplaceable" for Beyonce Knowles.

With Ne-Yo’s ability to make timeless hits and write a platinum song in less than 15 minutes, it’s no wonder many believe he is an overnight success, but that is far from reality.

"This was definitely not an overnight situation, It took some sweat, some blood, some tears, some aggravation, some frustration,…I even slept in a van for a good six months trying to get on,” Ne-Yo told the South Florida Times in an interview. “I tell anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps, understand that it’s not easy and you're going to work, you're going to suffer a little bit but it only makes you stronger."

And what a strong artist Ne-Yo has become.  It takes a lot of forte to hold down a full stage on your own, and he has mastered that art tremendously.

He moved across the stage and sang effortlessly. His Michael Jackson-inspired moves had every woman in the theater screaming their lungs out. As he reflected on Michael Jackson's recent passing, Ne-Yo said he is grateful to be a part of his music and a part of his legacy, and that he feels a duty to keep it alive.

“I feel like anybody that has ever been inspired by Michael Jackson and his music, has the responsibility on their shoulders to keep his legacy alive.  That's Usher, that's Chris, that's me,” Ne-Yo shared, “Anybody that has ever tried on a ‘Beat it’ jacket, or hiked their pants up to show their white socks or tried to do the moonwalk on the kitchen floor. It’s up to all of us to keep his legacy alive.”

Ne-Yo closed out the show with his hit song, “Closer.”

Although he's incredible on the vocals and has mastered the moves of a gentleman, Ne-Yo said he looks forward to getting more involved in a few movie projects for the new year.

Photo: Ne-Yo