Sunday night in the Araneta Coliseum raked in a crowd that was telling of how nostalgia has truly been something that people have been willing to spend. With the recent successful concert of Backstreet Boys in Manila and now with the joint power of 90s girl super groups, SWV and TLC, the obvious spending power of those who grew up listening to these musical acts are now big players to Manila’s concert scene. There's no denying now that there’s something incredibly wonderful about being able to re-experience a part of your younger years in a way you haven’t before.
In the case of many of the audience members last Sunday night, it would have been their first time to watch SWV and TLC live. For both acts, this is their first time in Manila. It’s a chance for the fans to witness two acts who without a doubt were essential listens to anyone who grew up during the 90s.
SWV started the night with their older and more upbeat songs to get the crowd revved up, and by the time they performed one of their biggest singles, 'Right Here', the entire coliseum was singing along with them. The track samples Michael Jackson’s 'Human Nature', in the most natural way; a seamless integration of the King of Pop’s song with the three singers’ voices as if it were their own. As the night continued, the trio continued to charm the crowd with their candor and sass.
Sisters With Voices, that’s what their name stands for, and most of the night was spent proving their name. Not that the ladies needed validation, with a Grammy Award under the belt and over 25 million record sold notch on their name. But Coko, the group’s soprano, Tamara’s mezzo-soprano voice, and Leanne's Contralto singing complemented each other showing that their years together have made them even better. Their newer tracks showcase their voices in a way their previous songs haven’t. One particular standout is 'Man Crush Everyday' from their latest album, Still, which was released earlier this year.
They ended the set with an obvious choice, 'Weak', a song that has unofficially become a Philippine anthem much like 'Born For You' (David Pomeranz) and 'Passenger Seat' (Stephen Speaks), whose invasion of airwaves during their respective times became a national phenomenon. Everyone knows it, word for word, in their heart of hearts. The crowd sang along with much gusto, the way, only a song like 'Weak' can make you.
A look back to the 90s will show TLC dominating the decade with four number #1 singles, 'Creep', 'Waterfalls', 'No Scrubs', and 'Unpretty', all of which they performed during the concert to the delight of all the concert goers. And there is no surprise in knowing that with over over 75 million records sold worldwide, TLC is the bestselling American girl group of all time.
When the band broke out in 1992 with their debut album, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, there was no one like them. They dressed up in baggy pants, gave the most insatiable interviews, taped up condoms on their clothes to promote safe sex, and sang about going down on women. The last thing you'd call them was girly but they were about as sexy as you can get; and four albums and five Grammy awards later, TLC is still the same sexy they were, albeit less controversial.
As TLC performed the group’s most popular songs through the rest of the night from their biggest albums, CrazySexyCool and FanMail, the duo proves why they remain to be the girl group to beat both in sales and influence. T-boz’s voice is as cooling and beautiful as it is on record and Chilli dances like she hasn’t aged a day. And maybe it’s sentimentality working but the very moment they stepped on stage until they ended the evening, there was something electric running through everyone.
'Damaged' is one of the songs by TLC written to be performed as a duo and was from 3D, the first and only album after Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes passed in 2002. It doesn’t stand as one of group’s more commercially successful songs but it sticks like glue because it shows that even with one girl down, TLC is always going to be TLC. Performed live, the two sound great singing it; and it’s one of the night’s understated highlights.
Perhaps the group is most known for Waterfalls from its arguably best album, CrazySexyCool. In the 1995 VMAs, the video took home 4 awards namely, Video of the Year, Best Group Video, Best R&B Video, and Viewer's Choice. At this point, the group was at their peak so this track didn't only cement their place in music history but as voices that mattered.
For their entire career, the group sang about sexual freedom, and self-love, being an independent woman all before other girl groups followed suit. So it was only fitting that the night ends with a song about coming of age and about hope. Twelve years after Waterfalls’ release, Manila gets to have its chance to sing back the most influential songs to one of the most influential artist of their generation. Before they begin, Chilli asks the audience to put up their phones and light up the arena for Left Eye. Everyone obliges and it was the night’s gem of a moment.
To have seen SWV and TLC at a time past their prime seems both such a waste and a gift. One could only imagine what it would be like to have seen SWV right off their Grammy win. And I would bet money that anyone would give so much to watch TLC as trio instead of duo. It would be such a different experience but more than two decades at what they do, this must also be a much different experience for them too. And while many things stay the same—SWV’s harmonies, T-boz’ coolness, and Chilli’s rockhard abs, they’re not the same artists anymore. It’s the same songs sung by the same people, but by different artists. Nostalgia keeps us attached but their newness and growth as performers and artists is what truly worth the belated gratification of watching our favorite artists live.
TLC x SWV Live in Manila was presented by MMI Live.