Bobby Brown choked back tears as he performed with his band New Edition in Mississippi on Saturday night, hours after his ex-wife Whitney Houston was found dead in Los Angeles.
The "I Will Always Love You" hitmaker's body was discovered by her minder in her suite at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Paramedics were called to the venue but were unable to resuscitate the singer and she was pronounced dead just before 4pm on Saturday.
Brown was in Southaven, Mississippi preparing for his gig with the reunited New Edition when news of Houston's death broke, and his bandmate Johnny Gill told CNN his bandmate was "struggling" and "devastated" by her untimely demise.
In a group statement, the stars admitted Houston's passing had left them "absolutely shocked and saddened", but they decided the show must go on and pressed ahead with the concert.
Brown took to the stage as planned with his bandmates Gill, Ronnie DeVoe, Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ralph Tresvant and kicked off the gig with a poignant tribute to Houston, pointing to the sky and saying, "I love you."
Turning to the crowd at the Landers Center, he then admitted he had almost pulled out of the performance as he tried to come to terms with Houston's passing.
Addressing the fans, Brown said, "First of all, I want to tell you that I love you all. Second, I would like to say, I love you Whitney. The hardest thing for me to do is to come on this stage."
But the show proved too much for the My Prerogative singer and he broke down during a rendition of Tenderoni and briefly left the stage to compose himself.
Brown and Houston divorced in 2007 after 15 years of marriage.