Seeing TLC live has been on the bucket list for a long time. Mighty Hoopla 2018 at Brockwell Park presented that opportunity. The women were headlining their first ever UK festival. Only their 2nd UK date ever, the first being May 2017, we eagerly awaited their arrival. What took them so long?! When you consider the band have been together for over 25 years, this is surprising. TLC were the original girl power girl band, long before we knew we needed the term ‘girl power’. And so, to their festival appearance we go.
TLC hail from Atlanta, Georgia and are T-Boz (Tionne Watkins), Left-Eye (Lisa Lopes) and Chilli (Rozonda Thomas). They burst onto the scene in the early 90’s with catchy track Aint 2 Proud 2 Beg. The album, Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip, from which it was taken went multi-platinum, bringing them commercial success and critical acclaim. These women were/are strong, sexy and talented, each bringing something unique to the band. T-Boz sexy vocals, Left-Eye the ability to spit bars and Chilli is a lot more than the 6-pack she is fond of showing off, her melodies are out of this world. As a 3-piece they have 5 studio albums, 5 Best Of albums and a Christmas EP (pretty much the definition of success). Individually they have also had some success. T-Boz not limited to a couple of soundtracks, Fled (1996), the Rugrats movie (2000) plus some acting work.
Chilli’s solo music has been plagued with rumours and leaking. However, she did release a single in 2016 in support of a fitness campaign. In the main she’s focussed on acting and TV guest appearances. Left Eye managed to release a solo album, Supernova, and racked up quite a few ‘features’, most notably Never Be the Same Again with Mel C a.k.a Sporty Spice (2000), Space Cowboy with N’Sync (2000) and You Know What’s Up with Donnell Jones (2007). The solo career of Lisa and the comments she made about it caused a rift in the group and they were never to be a 3 piece again as she died in a car accident in April 2002.
There have been challenges and drama surrounding the group. T-Boz battles with Sickle Cell, Left Eye burnt down the house of an ex and Chilli’s relationship with Usher was a close kept secret, until its end led him to release the album Confessions (2004). But we don’t want to focus on any of that, apart from to say that Tionne Watkins does a lot of charity and awareness work around the Sickle Cell disease.
TLC @ Mighty Hoopla Festival
The band were fond of a bouncy beat, a baggy trouser and a catchy chorus. This formula has stood the test of time and their self-titled album released in 2017 has stayed true to their roots, but bringing their sound bang up to date. Mighty Hoopla gave us just that, TLC bang up to date. The surviving members did not forget their departed band mate. They played out her rap verses and vocals as part of the performance, which served to pay homage to her throughout. The intro and outro of the show was framed by a collage of images from when the band were three. This raised the emotions of those watching. A touching tribute.
TLC brought the thunder (not literally). Their outfits had a tinge of the military/utility about them, the gold in each adding to the shimmer on stage. Both women opted for baggy; Chilli on the bottom (trademark), T-Boz on the top with gold shin pads for effect. The set started out punching with full band and brass section, first up, What About Ur Friends taken from the first album. Runaway hit Aint 2 Proud 2 Beg which followed, took the energy in the crowd up further. T-Boz essentially led this one as a massive karaoke session, and Lily Allen (who had performed earlier in the day) could be seen watching side of stage.
TLC’s second studio album, CrazySexyCool is one of the out-right sexiest albums ever and when Diggin On You was sung next, there were more than a few meaningful looks passing between friends. There was an intimate moment between the ladies, that was caught on camera. Think tennis-doubles-behind-the-hand chat which served to give the impression we were to be let in on a secret. Yes! They changed course and threw it forward to album three, Fanmail, picking up the tempo again with Silly Ho. It was at this point the stage was cleared leaving the guitarist to give us a solo and the stage to go red. It could only be Red Light Special. T-Boz took a back-seat on the dancing front, singing from a raised platform at the back of the stage, this one was all Chilli. With a chair centre stage and two dancers flanking her, the audience were treated to a faux lap dance and left wondering what Usher was thinking. This number was HOT and the fireworks let off on stage served to punctuate the point.
With everyone hot and bothered (in a good way), T-Boz asked the crowd if “it’s ok if I take it back?”. Not surprisingly no one disagreed and we were treated to Baby Baby Baby from album one. The back screen was awash with psychedelic shapes as the lyrics popping up. Ok, not all of them, well just Baby. But it was effective. Haters, an introduction to their latest album, hit a low sound-wise as the system experienced problems. This did not deter the duo as they belted out the words defiantly. No dampeners being allowed here. Unpretty took on a life of its own and this time the mic was directed outwards to the throng of unofficial backing vocalists, as we were encouraged to find our own beauty. Simply magical.
The musician solos were applauded and the dancer solos included an impressive flip sequence from one side of the stage to the other. This pause felt like permission to kick it up a notch and Creep was the perfect track to acknowledge this. From a mesh of samples What’s My Name by Snoop Dogg was easily picked out as it was used to segue to their latest smash, Way Back, which features him. Any 90’s fans need to listen to this, the references throughout will have you drowning in nostalgia.
When Chilli asks you, “we don’t want no whaaat?”, the one and only response allowed is Scrubs. To be yelled at the top of your voice and in synch with your neighbours. THE goose bump moment of the whole day singing along with old friends and new.
The group were forced to cut the set short (overrunning stage, curfew, blah blah), but as the fans were thanked for giving 25 years plus of support, the intro to Waterfalls came through loud and clear. A second round of fireworks were let off and the crowd sang out as the speaker system was unplugged prematurely. Chilli was throwing the heart sign out to the crowd as she walked the length of the stage a few times. It was like she didn’t want to leave and especially didn’t want anyone to be left out of the love. And so, a fabulous day was ended and a dream realised for one South West London girl. Bucket list item, check.
Review of TLC at Mighty Hoopla 2018 at Brockwell Park on 3rd June 2018 by Sharmayne Robinson. Photography by Kalpesh Patel.