The little red and yellow cars of Air Grover rattled over their track, chugging upwards, then tilting right and left in the momentum that followed the drop – giving more thrill in under a minute than expected for a coaster planted in the kids section of Busch Gardens.
The same could be said for TLC’s April 8 performance at the Food & Wine Festival on Gwazi Field.
In under an hour, the twosome rolled through their 25-year ride of hits, albeit not without some malfunctions of their own.
Like a well-oiled time machine, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas succeeded in taking fans way back with the combination of baggy pants, bandanas, loopy chains, Chilli’s abs, T-Boz’s hair and the dust blown off the opening tracks from 1992: “What About Your Friends” and “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg.”
But three songs in, Chilli was clearly annoyed. Her mic was low. Sweat glistening off her abs from constant movement with the back up dancers, she called out to the crowd.
“Before we move on, how is the sound?”
The audience gave thumbs down.
“Harry, that’s a problem,” she said, glaring at the sound tent.
Looking at the crowd again, she tauntingly said, “If they’re professional, they’re gonna do it right.”
Every couple songs, she checked in with the fans. “How’s the sound? Do we need to get louder?” Toward the end she was clearly rousing the audience, smiling broadly.
T-Boz’s distinctive, raspy sound carried most of the performance and while Chilli’s creamy voice had a presence, she really ruled the choreography and the crowd.
“It’s hot,” she said fittingly, following a new song called, “It’s Sunny.”
She laughed when someone responded with a, “Welcome to Florida.”
“Georgia is like this, too,” she said.
Formed in Atlanta in 1990, the TLC originally had three members. Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, the rapper of the group, died in a car crash in Honduras almost 16 years ago.
If not for the cell phones held up to record Instagram stories and the lack of Left-Eye, in the most spirited moments of the show, you could easily imagine being a TLC concert-goer in the 90s. That speaks volumes at a time when the thirst for nostalgia is real and pouring a cup to satisfy isn’t always attainable.
Toss in the fact that their most recent single is called “Way Back,” and it’s clear that the most successful R&B girl group of the 90s made the decision to serve the drink of the old days and not simply remain there, drinking it themselves.
Aside from one hiccup after “Meant to Be” where T-Boz stopped the performance and the two members disappeared from the stage, the funky throwback vibe was carefully maintained to keep the audience engaged.
As Chilli apologized for sound problems, the iconic intro to “No Scrubs” bleeped through the speakers.
“Y’all about to get in trouble,” she said, speaking to the sound tent again.
She turned to the audience once more, asking where “the little ones” were. She pointed at several across the crowd before lecturing them.
When you’re older and you have your own car, your own job, she said, and you find a boy who doesn’t have those things because he’s riding passenger in his friend’s car, “don’t you ever, ever talk to him.”
The crowd laughed and hollered, enjoying the lead up to the group’s most streamed song.
“’Cause we don’t want no what?!”
“SCRUBS!” the audience screamed.
Behind the stage, the little red and yellow train of Air Grover could be seen clattering over its tracks once more.