Sometimes things are better in our heads, either the way we remember it or in the fantasy we've created.
The Legends of the Old School tour offered a buffet of beats at the BankUnited Center on Friday night by reuniting several classic hip-hop and R&B acts from the '80s and '90s. Vanilla Ice, Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio, 2 Live Crew, Color Me Badd, Rob Base, and DJ Laz all took the stage, with varying levels of success.
With the Cool Water cologne wafting in from 1988, Color Me Badd made an early good impression on a crowd consisting mainly of people over 30. For a lot of us, this was a journey back to middle and high school. Before they were being parodied by the Lonely Island and gifts containing certain genitalia, Color Me Badd were legit players in the R&B game. They topped the charts with “All for Love,” “I Adore Mi Amor,” and their smash single, “I Wanna Sex You Up.” Three of the four members – Bryan Abrams, Mark Calderon, and Kevin Thornton – unearthed those silky-smooth grooves from ’91. Time hasn’t ravaged the trio, but they’re not the lean sexpots they used to be. Then again, neither are most of their fans, and in a way that made CMB all the more accessible.
At first, Legends of the Old School felt a little bit like a surreal wedding party where the DJ plays only the Macarena and the Electric Slide (and, God help us, the Electric Slide did make a guest appearance at one point in the evening.) When CMB covered (admirably) Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” there was a scent of drunken karaoke in the air but in a good, loose, and inexplicably fun way.
Rob Base continued those merry vibes, time-warping the audience using the powers of Miami bass, reminding us all how big a jam “It Takes Two” was. His energy was undeniable, sucking everyone into a set riddled with unbridled nostalgia. Our house party tour guide didn’t allow anyone to sit and assaulted us with a rush of classic old-school jams. Later on, DJ Laz, perhaps the best performer of the night, did much the same.
But before that, Coolio happened.
Here’s where the scales fell from the eyes of the audience. Coolio singlehandedly killed the vibe of thousands of cheering and dancing fans. Kendrick Lamar would’ve been very unhappy. The celebration came to a standstill, and many either took their seats or left for the bathrooms or concession stands. Coolio seemed to forget that this was a gimmicky, jukebox-friendly concert and not his personal comeback tour.
Although the saxophonist Coolio brought out was incredible, doing his best to salvage the lackluster set, there would be no salvation until the very end, when Coolio finally played “Gangsta’s Paradise” (but not “Fantastic Voyage,” for some reason.)
Mercifully, DJ Laz reinvigorated the BankUnited Center with all of the dirty, booty-popping, crotch-grinding music we grew up with and danced to at endless Miami quinceañeras. Danny D made a guest appearance for “Boom I Got Your Girlfriend” before DJ Laz segued into his most recognizable cuts, “Mami El Negro” and “Esa Morena.”
Of the latter, he said, “We didn’t make a hit. Bitch, we made a classic.” We concur.
Next up was the highly anticipated 2 Live Crew, who, well, aren’t as nasty as they used to be. Sure, they played the stuff that got them in trouble back in the day and dancers in the tiniest of shorts did their rump-shaking job, but there was something missing. That something was Luke Campbell, AKA Luke Skyywalker, AKA Uncle Luke.
Although 2 Live Crew was formed before Campbell joined the group as their manager and lead vocalist, he became the face of the band. And 2 Live Crew without him is a little like the Pips without Gladys.
But even that didn’t prepare Miami for the final freefall.
Salt-N-Pepa, one of the evening's two headliners, came out flat. What had been a loud and boisterous production all of a sudden felt like a high school talent show. The speakers were way too low, and no, that wasn’t their fault, but the barrage of covers they did was.
Salt-N-Pepa, a duo who went platinum five times at the height of their career, dragged out the corpses of other people’s old-school joints instead of their own. They were like a low-rent bar band trying to pump up an apathetic room with music by the Beastie Boys, Guns N' Roses, and Nirvana. Thing was, we were already pumped for them, as in Salt-N-Pepa. They simply killed time with filler, and when they finally rolled out “Let’s Talk About Sex,” the damage was done. The crowd was so bitter and disappointed that the reaction was much more muted than it should have been.
They eventually transformed into the Salt-N-Pepa we know and love when they put on their signature matching jackets and rocked “Push It.” So no, Salt-N-Pepa were far from perfect, but at least no one walked out on them.
The night's main attraction was Vanilla Ice, who these days is loving life as a reality-show construction worker. That might be for the best.
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For many Friday night, Vanilla Ice was the musical equivalent of a brain freeze. They rushed in, excited that it was going to be great, only to get too much of him too soon, and all at once their brains seized up in protest. Legends of the Old School fans thought they wanted to see Vanilla Ice, but the truth is, they wanted to hear "Ice Ice Baby" and not much else.
The rest of the set featured a creepy clown prowling the stage and Vanilla Ice encouraging everyone to shout “Hell yeah!” Few did.
He went on a rant that eventually ended with a patriotic “Fuck ISIS!” — which is no doubt something we can get behind, but it was a bizarre ending to what was, on paper and in our imaginations, a once-promising event.
Maybe some things are better left in the past. As we age, so to do our tastes. More often than not, our memories betray us, and when we get a chance to relive something we once loved, the taste is never as sweet as we remember.