Matt Nathanson

Singer-songwriter Matt Nathanson looked a little awkward onstage at the 9:30 club Friday night, often standing with his shoulders tensed, his knees together but feet apart. That gawkiness melted away when he talked to the audience, telling the stories behind his songs or ranting about why Rick Springfield never pursued the object of his affection in "Jessie's Girl."

While Nathanson was backed by a three-piece band for most of the show, he did play a few songs on his own. But even when his band was onstage, Nathanson was unquestionably the center of attention, his between-songs banter often veering way off-color. Despite the early show time (due to another engagement at the club, Nathanson was offstage before 10 p.m.), the group maintained a high energy all night, even breaking into a cover of Black Sabbath's "Crazy Train."

Most of his uptempo tunes started to sound alike during the 90-minute show, but Nathanson inserted a few ballads in his set list. Unfortunately, some of those quieter tunes, like "New Coats and New Hats," were disrupted by the rumble of the crowd. Nathanson's sense of humor brought the crowd's focus back on him by the end of the night for a singalong of his song "Answering Machine."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

WKYS Homecoming Gala

Talk of refunds began almost immediately at the 93.9 WKYS Homecoming Gala. Upon entering the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill on Saturday night, ticket holders learned P. Diddy protege Mase was a no-show and that New Edition wouldn't grace the stage until 11:30 p.m. -- a full 31/2 hours after the doors opened.

But concertgoers didn't have to plead for their money back. At around 11:45, the lights in the lower-level ballroom came up and WKYS personality Russ Parr appeared to apologize and take responsibility for the long wait and Mase's absence, and to tell the crowd that the show would be free, courtesy of the station. Those who purchased tickets were instructed to write down their contact information so that the station could either provide a refund or tickets to another show.

It's a good thing the evening was gratis: New Edition's Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie Devoe, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant performed only three songs before telling the crowd good night. They started with their first single as Bad Boy recording artists, "Hot 2Nite," and then went straight into "If It Isn't Love." The singing was muffled by screams, but the trademark synchronized footwork was impeccable -- save for a brief sneaker malfunction from Ricky Bell, who lost a shoe but recovered quickly.

The planned finale was "Poison," a megahit from the R&B, hip-hop and pop fusion trio Bell Biv Devoe, a '90s New Edition off-shoot. But as soon as Bell warbled the song's last high note, the group gave a quick plug for their new album and bid the room adieu. Furious boos forced them to reconsider.

Bell left the stage and never resurfaced, but the remaining foursome offered up a cappella versions of a few chart-toppers -- although most of the vocal work was left to the audience.

After some negotiating between Bivins and the DJ, the track for "Can You Stand the Rain" began to play and K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci fame was brought out to do a little moaning and wailing. Mr. Cheeks of the rap group the Lost Boyz also appeared and began walking around the stage. When the song ended, the group walked off, for good this time. Their fans, confused and angry, stumbled out of the hotel suffering from an acute case of "N.E. Heart Break."

-- Sarah Godfrey