Somewhere between the time of Salt-N-Pepa and TLC tearing up the charts, En Vogue was setting trends on the axis of R&B, hip-hop, new jack swing and pop. With pristine vocal harmonies and eye-catching chorography, the fashion-conscious ladies were all about challenging musical conventions and shattering social prejudices, selling more than 20 million albums in the process across various cultures and countries.
Regardless of the period or style, En Vogue gave those of any age who returned to school for the night a masterclass in how a bunch of divas stay fresh, fabulous, and most importantly, funky.
Though North Central College’s Fine & Performing Arts Series has always set its sights on top national talent, this score was particularly noteworthy considering En Vogue doesn’t come through these parts all that often and is also readying “Electric Café,” its first new album since 2004. At Wentz Concert Hall, original members Cindy Heron-Braggs and Terry Ellis, alongside newer recruit Rhona Bennett (a native Chicagoan), debuted their latest single “Déjà Vu,” a laid back and breezy track that evoked vintage girl groups crossed with shades of contemporary R&B.
Other than that, the 80-minute set revolved exclusively on previous hits, collaborations and covers, many of which ruled the ‘90s and stayed surprisingly relevant. That meant everything from the sassy “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” to the significant other shout-out “Whatta Man” and the provocative “Free Your Mind,” all accompanied by glamorous outfits, sexy dance steps and tight accompaniment from a three-piece band (who started out a lot louder than the ladies in the speaker mix, but were eventually evened out).
The party really picked up when En Vogue paid tribute to several influences via a soulful medley including Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade” and Tina Turner’s take on “Proud Mary.” However, the ladies really let loose with their finely tuned vocals during the Curtis Mayfield-penned/Aretha Franklin-popularized ballad “Giving Him Something He Can Feel,” while also inviting three audience members on stage as the stripped down segment continued with Guy’s “Piece Of My Love” recast from a female perspective.
In spite of skipping an encore, pairing The Miracles’ acapella “Who’s Lovin’ You” with the beat-centric “Hold On” brought proper closure to the show, as well as a full circle throwback to the group’s “Born To Sing” beginnings. But regardless of the period or style, En Vogue gave those of any age who returned to school for the night a masterclass in how a bunch of divas stay fresh, fabulous, and most importantly, funky.
For additional information on En Vogue, visit EnVogueMusic.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at North Central College include Ana Popovic (Feb. 24); Los Lonely Boys (Mar. 11); Jo Dee Messina (Mar. 26); America (Apr. 1) and Gin Blossoms (May 13). For additional details, visit NorthCentralCollege.edu/Show.