Is there anything better to do on Valentines weekend than to go and see some live music with your partner? For me that is a rhetorical question as both my husband and I are crazy about the music that we love. So it was inevitable that when The Show Tour announced a 90’s R&B valentines line up that we would be present.
I have to admit that although I was already a fan of En Vogue & Blackstreet, it was not until the late 90’s early 2000’s when I really began to get deeply into music. Because of this my husband has been my main educator of the era before that. As we have been together for a decade I have had time to develop an appreciation for the other artists on the billing also.
On the day, we set off early for Wembley Arena as we thought the show might start promptly due to the number of artists in the billing. However once we reached the arena we had to wait until after 6pm to be let in to find our seats as sound-checks were still going on. Whilst this is not unusual when multiple acts are billed, it meant the show was definitely not going to start on time. It did however give us a chance to get some drinks in!
Eventually some music blasted to life from the sound rig and Frisky DJ and Rampage appeared on stage to warm up the crowd and introduce the first act. Comedian Eddie Kadi was supposed to be doing the warm up with them but he is notorious for being late and this night proved no exception to that rule.
Frisky and Rampage handled initial hosting duties well, including the difficult news that Silk would not be appearing as they had not travelled to the UK as expected and it was not long before Changing Faces were on stage.
It is never easy to be the first act on stage and as the ladies were accompanied only by a backing track it meant that they were quite exposed. The crowd, some of whom were still arriving, took a little while to get into the occasion despite the duo opening with hit record G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T. They persevered however performing other hits such as Fooling Around as well as some new material and the atmosphere really got going after they invited one tall muscled guy on stage to perform Stroke You Up with them to hilarious effect.
By now the arena was filling up and Eddie Kadi finally arrived to some good-natured ribbing about his time keeping skills. As soon as he walked on stage with Frisky and Rampage his natural charisma and skills for working a crowd were evident. The hosts soon had us all laughing whilst the set was rearranged for Kut Klose. This would continue to be the format for the night in between acts although Eddie’s dancing techniques should be restricted to his house for everyone’s safety.
Kut Klose followed a similar format to Changing Faces by singing to backing tracks yet seemed to receive a warmer reception from the crowd who no doubt appreciated their unique throwback dress sense also. They completed a relatively short set that included I Like and both Twisted & Get Up On It that were originally collaborations with their mentor Keith Sweat.
By now the crowd was ready for the show to really get going and the stage had been set up for Mint Condition’s instruments which were sure to impress. The volume of the music audibly went up a notch with real instruments in play and it certainly would have woken up any audience member that was feeling too relaxed after the opening acts.
Lead singer, and multi-talented musician, Stokley Williams impressed everyone by getting the crowd to join in as well as playing a variety of instruments. The whole band seemed jazzed to be on stage and threw a lot of energy into their performance. Their set encompassed of a wealth of tunes including I Want It, U Send Me Swinging, Forever in Your Eyes, You Don’t Have To Hurt No More, Girl Of My Life, What Kind of Man Would I Be and their finale was Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes) which had the crowd on their feet.
At this point there was definitely an excited atmosphere in the place which would continue thanks to a fabulous turn from Tony! Toni! Toné!.
Even without soul maestro Raphael Saadiq, Tony! Toni! Toné! put in a flawless enthusiastic performance that had the crowd happily singing along to songs like the new jack swing inspired If I Had No Loot & It Feels Good and the soulful goodness of It Never Rains (in Southern California) & Let’s Get Down.
Next up was a highly anticipated set from Total. A lot of the crowd had never had the opportunity to see these ladies perform live so there was definitely a peaked interest.
Some were disappointed that original member Keisha Spivey was not present and felt that this took away from the performance. Personally I thought that, despite the ladies being in amazing shape and singing in good voice, their performance paled in comparison to the two acts that had come before them. But many of the crowd seemed to be enjoying the medley of tunes including What About Us & If You Want Me and Notorious B.I.G collaborations Hypnotize & Can’t You See as well as catchy new song You Don’t Have to Worry.
It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I awaited the penultimate act, En Vogue, to grace the stage. Trepidation because I knew that they were without vocal powerhouse Dawn Robinson but excitement as having seen them live before I knew the crowd was in for a real treat.
The ladies did not disappoint. Terri, Cyndi and Rhonda belted out hit after hit such as Free Your Mind, Never Gonna Get It and Don’t Let Go that had the audience singing loudly and dancing wildly. The also provided a medley of retro covers including Got To Be Real and Lady Marmalade. For me they were the absolute highlight of the entire night and they were not afraid to call out a couple of idiots in the crowd who decided to start a fight for some reason.
Unfortunately by this point, thanks in part to the late start of the night, time was running out for the event. Blackstreet 2 (or BS2 as they are known) were the headline act and it was evident that they would not have as much time for their set as they would perhaps like.
With this in mind it made little sense that they chose to keep in time-wasting videos about Teddy Riley’s career (a pointless history lesson of which most of the audience would already be well aware) and added many unnecessary pauses into their songs. Long time fans also felt disappointed that this was, with the exception of Teddy Riley and Dave Hollister, an almost entirely different band. The sound just was not the same as when founding members Teddy Riley and Chauncey Black worked together and it left many longing for the good old days. With the new line up they need new songs in order to create an identity that the fans can relate to.
The group managed to get through a few well-known songs such as I Like It & Don’t Leave and a solo mix of Teddy’s production hits before Wembley Arena pulled the plug and they were forced to vacate the stage. By this point many of the crowd had left anyway in order to catch the last underground train home so it would have been pointless to go on any longer.
Overall the show was an enjoyable way to spend valentines weekend and we certainly felt like we got our money’s worth. When a concert has a multi-act line up such as this there is always likely to be some acts that the crowd will enjoy more than others but it does also mean that time is of a premium for each act. It is a delicate balancing act which, in general, the organisers handled well. It is just a shame that it overran to the point at which the venue cut the power.
However I thank The Show organisers for a good night and I’m already looking forward to what they might host next.