Concert Review

TLC Served Nostalgia with a Nod to the Future in Downtown Phoenix

TLC look ready to embrace the group's musical future.
TLC look ready to embrace the group's musical future. Melissa Fossum
Apparently, you can’t throw a ‘90s revival tour without someone bringing some roses. When the I Love the ‘90s Tour: The Party Continues came to Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix, it was Blackstreet who decided to serenade the ladies in the crowd while delivering some flowers. Let’s take it back a minute, though, ‘cause a whole bunch of stuff happened before that.

C+C Music Factory with Freedom Williams took the stage first, as the venue was starting to fill up. Freedom joined C+C in the ‘90s as the group moved from a dance club fave to mainstream popularity with their breakthrough hits, “Things That Make You Go Hmmm…” and “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)." Williams performed both, along with a DJ. Wondering what happened to the other members of that act made me go hmmm, but as I quickly learned last night, it didn’t really matter.

Whether someone died, quit the band, or whatever, vocal tracks represented their missing physical form. Freedom gave a lively effort as he weaved his vocals around those of an invisible female counterpart.

Everyone who played prior to headliners TLC weren’t trying to take up too much stage time. They knew they were there to play their hit tracks and utilized their slotted 15 minutes accordingly. Maybe lacking some of the more energetic choreographed moves of their youth, All-4-One took the stage next for some in-sync shuffling and worked their way up to chart-topper “I Swear” by nodding to the ‘90s performing a couple old-school hits that weren’t theirs, like Boys II Men’s classic “Motownphilly.”

Biz Markie was a nice follow-up to that choreographed boy-band business, effortlessly laying down some of his old-school raps. Effortlessly, like for real, proving that no matter which century you’re seeing him in, Biz Markie Does. Not. Give. A. Fuck.

Gloriously, he looked like he might have been awakened from a nap to come out for the show. He kept it real and everyone went batshit nutso when he did “Just A Friend,” which was technically an ‘80s jam but nobody was about to split hairs. Not that Biz would have cared, anyhow. He paid tribute to some departed faves like Prince and Michael Jackson by covering their songs with full knowledge he can't replicate their vocal stylings. So in true Biz fashion, he did it his way.

Until that point, the fun and nostalgic train was rolling consistently at about level five. That was easily cranked up to a 10 when Rob Base and crew took the stage. He was amped AF, and got the crowd into the most action it had seen thus far. He did killer versions of his hits, “Joy and Pain,” and “It Takes Two,” without his sidekick from back in the day, DJ EZ Rock, who passed on a few years back.

Base got the audience involved, which at these old-school tours seems to be a big key in keeping up the happiness level. That and continuous shoutouts to Phoenix. People love hearing a band remind them where they live.

Blackstreet followed, sporting flashy red and black suits to carry out their in-union dance moves. Yep, they did “No Diggity,” while reminding the crowd that the song wasn’t only a hit, but won a Grammy. And then, out came the Grammy. And then, they did the song while dancing around and holding the Grammy, saying that they take that Grammy with them wherever they go. Damn, Grammy, you’ve seen some action. It might have been a little bit awkward, but then they brought those roses out and created a “pick me” frenzy that seems to render all sins forgivable.

There was a slight break in order to get ready for TLC, the only act that night using a live band as part of their set, and when they finally came out, after multiple DJ spins of other hip-hop classics, and ads for an upcoming hip-hop cruise where you can sun alongside folks like Tone Loc and Kid ‘N’ Play, the ladies, their band, and four dancers took the stage.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas looked fierce in their sleek black outfits, and they sounded even better. They went through all the hits, from “No Scrubs” and “Creep” to “Baby-Baby-Baby" and of course “Waterfalls,” with power. Their dancing was on point, with Chilli really bringing it in that department. The dance crew and band were ferocious, keeping the show jumpin’ until the end. They didn’t forget about their own deceased member, Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, via an on-screen photo montage spanning their years together. They also did a couple songs from their upcoming new album, which touched on themes about staying true to yourself and issues like cyber-bullying.

It seems like they’re back in action and ready to tackle a whole new chapter.

click to enlarge TLC brought nostalgia to Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix. - MELISSA FOSSUM
TLC brought nostalgia to Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.
Melissa Fossum
Critic’s Notebook
Last Night: The I Love the ‘90s Tour with C + C Music Factory, All-4-One, Biz Markie, Rob Base, Blackstreet, and TLC.
The crowd: Fans ready to scream the lyrics all night long. And dudes rocking overalls, one strap unhooked, natch.
Overheard: “Bitch, you better get out of my face,” said one of two women who almost came to blows over dancing space.
Notebook dump: That hip-hop cruise sounds pretty fun.

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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young