TLC delivers a dance party with old and new jams
Showing up at a TLC concert 26 years after its first album dropped and knowing that only two of the original three members would be on stage made us approach the State Fair Main Stage with an open mind, a dash of leeriness and a lot of hope.
Nineties nostalgia shows are hot tickets in 2018, but when walking – or rocking – down memory lane, there's always the chance that the lane isn't quite as smooth as it once was. After all, the loss of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes – who died in a car accident in Honduras in 2002 – made the remaining members of TLC Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas vow to break up after finishing the album that was almost complete at the time of Lopes's death.
However, the women persevered and TLC's performance tonight took place at the intersection of memory and modern lanes, with a setlist drawing from the first album, 1992's "Oooooooohhhh … On the TLC Tip" to the latest self-titled and crowdfunded record that came out in 2017. The high-energy concert wove new songs like "Joy Ride" and "Haters" and the single "Way Back" with its blockbuster hits from yesteryear including "Creep," "Red Light Special" and "Waterfalls."
The new songs have very much the same sound and feel of classic tunes, and the lyrics are powerful but less poetic, with lines like "haters gonna hate" and "it was meant to be." And yet, TLC's ability to reach the audience – which featured about twice as many women as men – has always been a large reason for their success.
"A long time ago I wrote about a personal experience," T-Boz said tonight before busting into the heartbreaking and empowering "Unpretty." "I didn't realize at the time how many people felt like this."
Later T-Boz and Chilli asked an 11-year-old girl to come to the front row so they could give her and a friend some advice as Auntie Chilli and Auntie T-Boz.
"Someday you're gonna get a car of your own, that you bought, that's all yours. And someday you're gonna be stopped at a red light, minding your own business … and some crazy man is going to be sitting in the car next to you – not even driving, just sitting in the passenger's seat – and he's gonna try to get your attention, but listen to your Aunties and don't ever, ever, never, ever, ever talk to him," Auntie Chilli said before they broke into the anthemic "No Scrubs."
The 90-minute concert never lagged nor felt sad, thanks to the incredible showwomanship and complementary talents of T-Boz and Chilli. Although they were famous for their baggy clothing, backwards caps and condoms as fashion in the early '90s – a "tomboy diva" look that was unheard of at the time for girl groups – the two women both dressed in black leather and silver chains tonight. However, nods to their original trailblazing style included T-Boz's blond short-long hair and Chilli's exposed midriff.
The two confident women have a deep understanding of who they are on stage, with T-Boz bringing first and foremost the voice – warm and gravely and strong – as well as an almost matriarchal maturity. Chilli contributes a softer, honey-languid voice and all the dance moves – including a sexy, PG-rated lap dance with an audience member during "Red Light Special."
With the addition of four acrobatic TLC dancers along with a trio of talented performers on bass, keys and drums, the stage remained a constant spectacle of action and entertainment. The mood was extremely upbeat, even during the final number, "Waterfalls," that included a photo montage in memory of Lopes and featured her recorded, beloved rap in the song. T-Boz and Chilli made the decision to carry on as a duo despite the loss of their soul sister, but they continue to let her have the last word and close out the show. Just how Left Eye would have liked it.
The dynamic trio En Vogue opened the show. The group, which has been performing and recording together for 28 years, has a new album called "Electric Cafe."
Setlist for TLC:
"What About Your Friends"
"Aint 2 Proud 2 Beg"
"Diggin' On You"
"Red Light Special"
"Meant To Be"
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