En Vogue reunites for Essence Fest

Group has sold more than 20 million albums

NEW ORLEANS -- En Vogue marked their 20th anniversary as one of music's most successful female groups with a reunion show that electrified the crowd at the Essence Music Festival.

Sunday night's performance featured all the group's original members -- Cindy Herron-Bragg, Terry Ellis, Dawn Robinson and Maxine Jones -- soaking up an enthusiastic audience that sang along and danced in the aisles.

"It was amazing," Herron-Bragg said of the audience reaction and participation. "I'm just glad we were able to connect with them."

"We're just excited to be together again," Robinson said. "It's like we never missed a beat. It feels normal again."

Known for their hits "Free Your Mind," "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It) and "Don't Let Go," the group opened the final night of the festival. They performed a medley of tunes by female artists who inspired them, including Gladys Knight, Anita Ward and Aretha Franklin.

Because of time constraints, however, they were unable to sing some fan favorites such as "Giving Him Something" and "Whatta Man" or close the show with "Hold On" and its signature a capella intro of "Who's Loving You," one of their hits that paid tribute to Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.

"He's the reason why we stand here together," Ellis said of Jackson, who died June 25. "He was the most phenomenal entertainer ever."

Fans were impressed and grateful to see the group back in form.

"We got here just in time to see them and we're so happy to see them back on stage," said Stephanie Griffin, of Sacramento, Calif. "When they split up it was heartbreaking and we always hoped they would get back together."

Yolanda Escobar of San Francisco said the group seemed to still have that magic that launched them back in the '90s. "It was great and they looked good," she said.

Producers Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy created En Vogue, which debuted in 1990. Their perfect harmonies and sexy personas catapulted them into the industry's stratosphere, setting a standard for later groups, like Destiny's Child, and sparking comparisons to previous girl groups like The Emotions and The Supremes.

"We come from a time when 'singing' was the norm," Herron-Bragg said. "I think that's one of the things that continues to draw fans to us."

The group, which sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, has appeared in original form a couple of times since 2007. But they're hoping for a larger comeback later this year with a new album. Ellis said they're also considering a move into reality TV.

"It's just another venue to get our music out there," Robinson said. "The industry has changed. It's not just about getting a record deal anymore. It's about exposure."

"Twenty years in the business is a long time and we've had a lot of fun in the process, but there's also been some ups and downs and we'd like to share some of that," Ellis said.
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