With Salt-N-Pepa, Coolio, Rob Base and more
Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie
Saturday, June 11, 2016
The Verizon Theatre drew a throng of 30 and 40-somethings on Saturday night as the I Love the ‘90s Tour descended on North Texas for a one-night show. The show features popular ‘90s hip-hop and R&B acts like Salt N Pepa, Coolio, Rob Base, Kid N Play, Young MC, Color Me Badd and All 4 One.
The performers provided a study on the many variety of ways human beings can age. Some acts appeared to have experienced its less forgiving side. Headliners Salt-N-Pepa informally surveyed the age of the audience during their set, asking for cheers from all the ‘60s babies, ‘70s babies, ‘80s babies and ‘90s babies. While there was nary a '90s baby in the crowd, the ‘70s and ‘80s repped hard.
The boisterous audience was eager to prove you can still get funky past your 20s. They showed up in their finest Saturday-night suburban-mom attire (80 percent of the crowd seemed to be women), rowdy women who danced hard after multiple trips to the bar for swirled daiquiris and tall-boy cans of Michelob Ultra.
Much of the entertainment was just watching the crowd respond to the various MCs' calls to "put your hands in the air, wave 'em like you just don't care" and other hype tactics to get the crowd moving. The crowd obeyed the commands, not needing a better excuse to get crazy in Grand Prairie on a Saturday night. The hype tactics weren’t just a warm-up but proved pervasive throughout the show. Most of the sets felt thin on the hits that made these people famous and relied heavily on sampled tracks from other performers to fill time.
All 4 One brought the house down during “That Girl is Poison,” complete with classic '90s dance moves that one of the band members broke into mid-song. Their rendition of Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” was a crowd-pleaser, and their hit “I Swear” became a venue-wide sing-along. Sadly, All 4 One’s voices haven’t weathered the test of time, and “I Swear” is unforgiving of mishaps; a lot of the solos were pitchy and off-key at times.
Rob Base and his backup MC brought the energy with his three most notable hits: “Joy and Pain,” “It Takes Two” and “I Wanna Rock Right Now.” Each one was a crowd pleaser that most people knew at least the chorus to and were happy to sing along with, giving this Harlem-born rapper’s short set the feel of a funky fresh '90s block party.
Salt-N-Pepa played only a small handful hits from their heyday. It took 30 minutes to get from their opening song “Do You Want Me” to the next hit “Let’s Talk About Sex”, and DJ Spinderella helped fill out the remainder of their nearly one-hour set by jamming everything from Cyndi Lauper to 50 Cent to Beyoncé. The ladies relied on gimmicky audience participation, bringing 50 or so women from their seats on stage to jam in a very uncoordinated mob dance while they waxed poetic about needing a “real man.” Spinderella played mashups of TLC’s “No Scrubs” and Erykah Badu’s “Call Tyrone,” two of the more pointed kick-your-freeloading-boyfriend-to-the-curb songs from the '90s.
Bringing that many people on stage poses some logistical challenges for getting them to leave, evidenced by Salt-N-Pepa’s repeated requests asking the women to get off the stage as the super fans couldn’t get enough and took the opportunity to swarm the DJ booth.
Even with the bumpy transition out of this bit, 10 minutes later, they brought about 30 men onto the stage for a male-centric mashup of hit songs to perform one of their seminal tracks “Whatta Man.” The women rapped while men grinded on them and got a little too handsy. There was a frightening lack of security on stage during this bit, but the seasoned performers kept going, seemingly only slightly perturbed by the alcohol-induced lack of personal space. Despite the frustrating shortage of actual hits, when Salt N Pepa’s brought it, they brought it. Their iconic voices, attitude, and stage presence, although matured from their early days, didn’t miss a beat. When they were blessing the crowd with one of their hits, they sounded as good live as they did on an album that hasn’t been played since it came out 20 years ago. The duo did a fair share of booty shaking and choreographed steps with two male hip-hop dancers, proving they’ve still got the moves. The crowd’s enthusiasm was well-deserved in those moments.
But the overall feeling of I Love the '90s was not one of accuracy or technical specifics. This was a night of nostalgia for nostalgia's sake, and these past-their-prime artists were there simply to make the audience get up and groove — even if meant the night wound up a little short on actual performances.