Drama was the name of the game in the months leading up to the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony performance at Vinyl Music Hall in Pensacola, Florida. Shortly after announcing the first leg of their Resurrection Tour, controversy struck a crippling blow to the Grammy Award winning group from Cleveland, Ohio.

In April of this year, founding member Krayzie Bone (Anthony Henderson) announced that he was leaving Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. With two of the original members no longer in Bone Thugs (Charles C. Scruggs, Jr. aka Wish Bone and Krayzie Bone), the situation would seem to leave the hit-making group and their tour in an awkwardly precipitous state.

What would a Bone Thugs-N-Harmony show be like without two original members? Would Layzie Bone (Steven Howse), his older brother, Flesh-n-Bone (Stanley Howse) and Bizzy Bone (Bryon Anthony McCane) be able to ignite the same fire that saw the group dominate airwaves and video when they hit the scene in the early 90’s. Would Florida Governor Rick Scott descend on the Panhandle, making another surprise appearance in Pensacola to pull the plug on the show when the group played their sing-along anthem “1st of Da Month” with a chorus that has been recognized as a “welfare carol” by comedian Chris Rock? All of these questions would soon be answered.

The night started early with media personalities from WMOB radio introducing a slew of opening artists that warmed up the Pensacola crowd. Finally reaching capacity, the sold-out Vinyl Music Hall venue cheered the announcement that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony were up next and a special raffle was drawn to find one lucky person to go on stage and hang with the artists after the show.

While looking at the stage moments before their set, it was evident that this was going to be a unique experience. The not-so secret hints of a live band joining the BTNH party was all around; a drum kit prominently displayed in the center of the stage with guitars, a keyboard and horns outlying the performance area.

With a blast of light and sound, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony took the stage. Confidently showing the vocal virtuosity that has marked their career, albums and collaborations with megastars such as Mariah Carey, the performance hit an even more dynamic level with the new additions. Not just musicians playing in the background, the band skillfully layered the show in solid hits of funk and rock.

Another highlight of the show included the groups’ dedication to the influential artists that have passed on throughout the years by calling upon ladies in the audience to join them on stage while the group played a celebratory mix of songs from artists including the late Tupac Shakur.

Adding a clever slice of drama near the end of the night, it was announced that the show would have to end because of time constraints while the greatest song in the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony cannon had, obviously, not been touched. A song that holds special meaning to many people, myself included, who have lost loved-ones, it seemed improbable that the single that earned the group a Grammy Award in 1997 for “Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group” would go unheard. As the crowd loudly proclaimed their displeasure, the lights went dark and the group performed “Tha Crossroads.”

Penned as a tribute to the late Eazy-E, the former member of the pioneering group N.W.A. who had signed the hungry Ohio group to his record label Ruthless Records in 1997, the song was a fitting way to end the night; showing that even when caught in a storm of recent drama, the group finds strength from loved ones, family and fellow artists to continue their exploration of life and music.

-Michael L. Smith