The '90s Live On With TLC, But Don't Call the Group a Nostalgia Act

The women of TLC have made a 25-year musical career out of keeping it all the way real with fans on the topics of love, sex, friendships, and money. So when Chilli and T-Boz, the two surviving members of the trailblazing '90s girl group, took the main stage at the Miami-Dade County Fair last night, they let their audience know they knew what they were dealing with.

"Some of y'all go way back with us," said the gravelly voiced T-Boz, referencing their 2017 bop "Way Back" and adding, "Some of y'all learned along the way, and some of y'all forgot and came back. We forgive you."

Nineties nostalgia is big business in 2018, from alt-rock cruises to tours featuring the era's biggest girl groups and boy bands. As one of the most successful pop acts of the decade, TLC has not been opposed to joining the trend in the recent past. The pair shared top billing with New Kids on the Block on the Main Event Tour in 2015, and they headlined last year's I Love the '90s: The Party Continues Tour in the United States and Canada.

But one would be remiss to reduce the kind of show the ladies put on last night to a profitable walk down memory lane. The concert brimmed with kinetic pacing and felt incredibly current. Songs from their 2017 crowdfunded, self-titled album intermingled seamlessly with their blockbuster hits from yesteryear, with songs such as the fan tribute "Joy Ride" sitting comfortably alongside "Diggin' on You" from their most acclaimed album, CrazySexyCool.

The '90s Live On With TLC, But Don't Call the Group a Nostalgia Act
Nestor Calixto

A quarter-century into their career, it's easy to see why the TLC formula still works. Each member has confidently settled into the performative role she plays onstage. While Chilli hopped in and out of choreography with their backup dancers comfortably, T-Boz did not appear pressed to do so. Instead, she stood tall at the risers, letting her vocals do most of the work. When it came time to bring a fan onstage for their baby-making jam "Red Light Special," T-Boz hung back while Chilli gave a sexy but restrained lap dance to a very lucky audience member center stage.

Later in the set, Chilli called out the surprising number of young kids in the crowd, many of whom sang along to the group's hits as enthusiastically as their parents. She teased the crowd with a spiel — purportedly for the young girls in the audience — about getting catcalled inside their cars by men walking on the street. Everyone knew where she was going with it, and the crowd lost their minds when the pair finally launched into their ladies anthem "No Scrubs."

One of the reasons a TLC concert does not feel like just another nostalgia act is the way T-Boz and Chilli deal with the palpable absence of their superstar, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. TLC keeps the "in memoriam" montages light, limiting the tributes to a photo stream of throwback photos before closing with their timeless classic, "Waterfalls." And though they've chosen to soldier on as a duo after the untimely passing of their parted soul sister, they let her have the last word, blasting a recording of her iconic rap on the song as they closed out the show.

The '90s Live On With TLC, But Don't Call the Group a Nostalgia Act
Nestor Calixto

Both women lingered onstage as the crowd cleared out. When the music stopped, they hopped off the stage to take selfies with hundreds of fans. T-Boz stayed for a few minutes, and Chilli remained for about a half-hour, making the rounds from one end of the stage to the other. In the end, it is that dedication, not a complacent reliance on yesterday's hits, that keeps TLC relevant 16 years after the devastating loss of an equally elemental part of the group.

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