With Tone-Loc, 2 Live Crew, Young MC, Christy Ray and Tyler Sloan
The Bomb Factory, Dallas
Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016
Throwback concerts are a mixed business. More often than not, they can be gimmicky affairs, sad cash grabs propped up by audience participation and samplings of others artists' music. But Vanilla Ice's hometown YO! '90s Hip-Hop Party at The Bomb Factory on Saturday night was anything but sad, even if his opening acts set the bar low.
The 2 Live Crew started their set by telling the audience they were from Florida, along with (spoiler alert) the rapper Flo Rida, and it was his birthday, so (spoiler alert again) they got out their cell phones, allegedly called him, and asked the audience to participate in a venue-wide happy birthday sing-along, for which the crowd obliged.
The duo referenced the Cowboys a lot, not having much else to say to pander to a Dallas audience. But they hit the football-loving demographic in the soft spot, and the rowdy crowd, wearing glowing sunglasses and a preponderance of black tops with white shorts, ate up the call-and-response bits like, “How 'bout them Cowboys?” “Redskins ain’t shit,” “New York Giants ain’t shit” and on and on.
The 2 Live Crew played a handful of their hits, which maybe, not shockingly, are all thematically based on wanting, needing and seeking sex, with titles like “Me So Horny” and “Pop That Pussy.” During “We Want Some Pussy,” two backup dancers who looked and danced very much like professional cheerleaders jumped and landed in full splits and bounced there for good measure. The dancers were the most polished part of the act.
Tone Loc and Young MC took the stage next. The duo was on stage with just each other; the DJ equipment, drum kit, and all other set materials were draped with black cloths. Curiously, there wasn’t even a DJ playing music for the set. But they kept the crowd entertained with hits like “Wild Thing,” “Funky Cold Medina” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice,” even if their energy was a little low, pacing the stage instead of putting out a more lively performance. Thankfully, they stuck mostly to music, even if half of it wasn’t theirs, forgoing much of the call-and-response hyping and chit-chat in between songs. True to '90s-themed hip-hop concerts, they brought 20 women on stage to grind and twerk in a fashion that would get them kicked out of their Zumba class, but on Saturday night it wasn’t only acceptable, it was encouraged.
Marci from Sunnyvale is a perfect example of the reason these concerts are so successful. She’s 45 with three children and can do a one-handed pushup because of her Crossfit training. Wearing the white shorts and sparkly black tank-top combo, Marci danced provocatively on anyone in her vicinity while her husband good-naturedly stood back with his brother. She says she used to jam these bands in the car when she was in her late teens and 20s, so it was a trip down memory lane.
Contrasting the first two bands, Vanilla Ice pulled out all the stops for a reunion in his hometown, telling the crowd, he was born on Oct. 31 “a couple of blocks from here at Baylor Hospital. … Everybody in my family runs through Texas, deep. Hell yeah.”
The set design was a psychedelic trip through Vanilla Ice’s world with life-sized, plant-like inflatable sculptures and break dancers. There were even actors dressed as Beetlejuice, a circus clown, a Mexican wrestler and Ninja Turtles jumping around the stage, hyping the crowd and keeping the energy up. In addition to the characters, Ice was backed by a drummer and a DJ, which made the sound and the performance fuller.
Three small platforms spaced across the stage gave Ice a boost, and he made use of the entire space, bounding across the stage from one platform to the other. Two “water boys,” crouched behind the center platform, threw him water bottles at regular intervals, which he stomped on, shook up and sprayed on the crowd, sometimes just throwing open water bottles into the sea of people. (The Bomb Factory staff needed a mop at the end of the night instead of a push broom to clean up the pool of water and empty beer cans.)
As the night progressed, more and more people (mostly women) from the crowd joined the stage, dancing on each other and on the platforms, and Ice’s performance became more of a high-energy homecoming block party than a hometown performance. He got a bit lost in the crowd up there and would have been completely hidden from view if it wasn’t for the neon green T-shirt he was wearing (which read, what else, "Ice Ice Baby" on the back in block letters).
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Ice closed out the night, not surprisingly, with “Ice Ice Baby” the hit he’s most known for and perhaps has been the most mocked for as well. In a 1999 MTV segment called “Lame,” Ice supposedly destroys the “Ice Ice Baby” video’s master tape so it could never be played again, saying, “The first hundred times I heard it, it was alright, but after 9 billion and I’ve seen it so many times and performed it, I’m so ready to get rid of this.”
But his performance on Saturday was evidence that it’s not ready to be retired. (He even invited Bomb Factory owner and former band member Clint Barlow on stage to play drums on the song.) Ice referenced his stint on Dancing With the Stars and his home improvement show, asking if anyone saw them. If Saturday taught him anything, it’s stick to what you’re known for, and at least in Dallas, that’s all he needed.