TLC LIVE: Crazy, sexy and cool – TLC set the bar for post-’90s girl groups

By Eunice Marfo


AFTER 30 MINUTES of impatiently waiting for the opening DJ set to finish, all is forgiven when Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas finally come on stage, wearing luminous gold, to remind us of the good old days. Excited fans – young and old, but mostly female – are packed into Camden’s KOKO.

“T-Boz” and “Chilli” are two-thirds of the popular and recently reformed ’90s girl group TLC. The third member, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes tragically died in a car crash in Honduras, in 2002.

Opening the hotly anticipated show with “Diggin’ on You”, and moving onto “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg”, the crowd instantly responded, as if they had been transported back to the ’90s.

For a one-off gig, it didn’t seem huge enough for one of the biggest girl groups of all time. It’s hard to believe they have never performed live in the UK before, let alone Europe. Boasting songs from their CrazySexyCool era, tonight’s show is an emotional one, and it features recorded vocals from Lisa.

TLC have inspired countless with their raw, powerful performances. When they performed their hit song “Waterfalls” – with horns, a gospel choir and a backdrop of Lisa’s face – it showed the crowd that they remember what they have lost.

The show concluded with the popular “No Scrubs”. Bringing out everyone’s diva, it signalled the beginning of the end. After an hour had passed, the show reached its finish line – but the audience had other ideas. Moments later, TLC were ushered back on stage, much to the hungry satisfaction of the crowd.

Getting to London wasn’t quite as straightforward for TLC. In 2015, they launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new album. Katy Perry pledged her support, with 5000 US Dollars. The new album, which was to be named by fans, ended up with the title, TLC. Perhaps the girls weren’t too impressed with the received suggestions? Ouch.

Well-received by the crowd, the duo performed a new single from TLC, titled “Way Back”. Unsure of how new music would sound – without Left Eye, the group’s main songwriter – the single came as a relief. Featuring rapper, Snoop Dogg, the song illuminates the ’90s sound that nostalgic fans still yearn for today. Left Eye would have been proud; however, we all know that she would have owned those rap lyrics as she always did.

Aged seven when their body image track, “Unpretty”, was released in 1999, I remember my older sister playing it. As I grew up, I began to understand the message behind “Unpretty”. It was about self-love, believing in your own natural beauty and not thinking that you can only be pretty with make-up and long hair. It was about staying true to yourself, which is why it was so disappointing when Chilli said “all lives matter”, and T-Boz said that she doesn’t care about Donald Trump, in their comeback interview on Channel 4. What a shit interview. TLC, how could you?

TLC were not just a “girl band”; they were a girl band who faced what life threw at them. Left Eye was in rehab and she burned down her boyfriend’s house. T-Boz battles sickle-cell anaemia. Their struggles filter through into their music, and they always drop sound advice.

They told us not to go chasing waterfalls, that we need to look inside ourselves for true beauty, and they gave us “scrubs”: a term for the type of man “Hanging out the passenger’s side/Of his best friend’s ride/Trying to holler at me”. TLC – we salute you.
TLC will be released June 30, 2017

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