As the best selling American girl group of all time, TLC not only churned out a steady stream of multi-million selling singles during its 1990s chart domination, but also built a seamless bridge between R&B, hip-hop, dance and pop that’s since laid the blueprint for the likes of Destiny’s Child, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, M.I.A. and the like. However, we’ll never know just how far the group’s star could’ve ascended because right at the peak of arena headlining fame in 2002, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes succumbed to a fatal car crash with surviving members Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins vowing never to replace the influential rapper.
The new “Meant To Be”… still suggested the current incarnation is capable of a comeback thanks to its slick beats, sweet harmonies and the fact the TLC’s fingerprints are still all over the industry even after so much time apart.
Though the group’s visibility dropped considerably throughout the following decade (sans consistent airplay of key hits like “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs”), the girls more than made up for lost time with VH1’s extraordinary “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” at the end of 2013, which quickly became the highest-rated original film premiere in the network’s history and inspired the surviving members to record a brand new track for the companion CD retrospective “20” (Epic).
Considering the groundswell of activity, it would’ve only made sense for a full-fledged tour to be plotted, but surprisingly, a single show in Canada and a sole American appearance at Hammond’s Las Vegas-like The Venue at Horseshoe Casino were the only items on Chilli and T-Boz’s current calendar. Given the scarcity of these engagements, fans literally flew from all over the country to Chicagoland (including shout-outs from a road tripper who traveled seven hours and another attendee from Washington, D.C.) to catch a short but sweet recollection of a meteoric career that was cut drastically short.
Flanked by a full band, fleet of dancers and Lil Mama (who played “Left Eye” in the movie, but isn’t an official member), the two principles took an hour long trip down memory lane that stuck pretty close to the “20” collection and the genre blurring beats that defined a generation. Hip-hop bangers like “Ain’t Too Proud 2 Beg” and “What About Your Friends” intersected with sensual R&B ballads like “Baby-Baby-Baby,” “Diggin’ On You” and “Red Light Special,” all met by feverish reactions from faithful (who even rushed the stage at one point following the girls’ prompting).
In fact, the evening felt more like an intimate fan club performance than a tightly scripted show, featuring several impromptu conversations, pauses for autographs and flower acceptance sessions. Of course, these moments and an extensive dancer interlude took away from the music, which was all too brief especially since there was no opening act, though at least TLC covered all the obvious bases. The finale trio of “Unpretty,” “Waterfalls” and “No Scrubs” each topped one another as far as sing-a-longs were concerned, though the latter trailed off aimlessly as members accepted another armload of gifts. The new “Meant To Be” was an anticlimactic encore compared to those instantly familiar selections, but the Ne-Yo-penned R&B ballad still suggested the current incarnation is capable of a comeback thanks to its slick beats, sweet harmonies and the fact the TLC’s fingerprints are still all over the industry even after so much time apart.