Ne-Yo performs at a Kennedy Center concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. Behind him is Steven Reineke, NSO conductor. (Scott Suchman/Kennedy Center)
Ne-Yo performs at a Kennedy Center concert with the National Symphony Orchestra. Behind him is Steven Reineke, NSO conductor. (Scott Suchman/Kennedy Center)

Donning his signature-style fedora hat, audience members of all ages and genders came to the Kennedy Center ready to see Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Ne-Yo – and he did not disappoint. Working up a sweat in a black patent leather tuxedo suit, Ne-Yo gave concertgoers a good time. 

An outstanding entertainer, Ne-Yo’s performance with the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) was thrilling, as the crooner and composer sang his own recorded hits, plus those he wrote for other artists. 

After a few opening songs, he explained the premise behind the evening.

“A Ne-Yo show is made up of classic classics and future classics. It’s like the song when you had your first kiss,” Ne-Yo said with fans screaming.

“Ms. Independent,” “She Knows, “Because of You,” “Sexy Love,” and “Champagne Life” was how the show began. It was a high-energy vibe aided by four flexible female dancers whose every move illustrated Ne-Yo’s lyrics. 

As the crowd showed their pleasure with every song, he asked the audience to stand up and dance at their seats. Several overzealous fans thought that meant to come down the aisle to the stage. Ne-Yo was accommodating by taking selfies with gleeful fans. Ushers had to kindly ask those fans to go back to their seats.

National Symphony Orchestra, the Max Back-Up Group

The symphony did a concert with India Arie last year that sold out, and this year’s presentation followed suit in packing the audience and bringing a strong, dynamic performance.

Under the direction of conductor Steven Reineke, the National Symphony Orchestra was outstanding. The musicians were fantastic in adding gusto to Ne-Yo’s well-loved rhythms. Accompanying the NSO were Ne-Yo’s own musicians: guitarist Rayfield Holloman, bassist Justin Raines, Leonard Tribbett Jr. on drums and Paul Lamont Reynolds on keyboards.

“I am a die-hard Ne-Yo fan. This was my first time at the Kennedy Center,” said Navy Yard area resident Poetry Deal. “I also wanted to hear the symphony. I wanted to hear actual classical instruments play along while he was doing his set.”

Ne-Yo’s Magic Works for Other Singers

Of course, Ne-Yo knew his fans wanted to hear songs he had composed for other artists.

“There’s no secret to anybody here that I write songs for myself as well as other people,” Ne-Yo said to the audience as they yelled.

“To the Left” and “Irreplaceable” recorded by Beyoncé, “Let Me Love You” by Mario, “Take a Bow” by Rhianna, and “Spotlight” recorded by Jennifer Hudson were just a few of the songs from Ne-Yo’s songwriting catalog that  the crowd enjoyed.

“I love his songs,” said Keontae Kells, who came to the concert from Baltimore. “I could sing along with his songs that I knew, like the song by Mario, who is from Baltimore. The audience loved Ne-Yo. For most of them, I think it was their first time at the Kennedy Center.”

Performing more than 20 songs, including a few from his most recent album “Self Explanatory,” Ne-Yo’s fans could have hung out at the Kennedy Center for a little longer. The singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, and record producer left his audience satisfied as they exited the concert.

Brenda Siler photo

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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