PHOENIX — Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre hosted the aptly-named “Hot Summer Nights Tour” last Friday, featuring Shaggy, TLC, En Vogue, and Sean Kingston. The tour’s July 7th stop in Phoenix was a 90s-infused R&B/reggae/hip-hop flashback enjoyed by a multi-generational and multicultural audience. The sexy and sometimes PG-13 rated gyrations on stage may have bumped that heat index up a notch or two, but the crowd was there for it, and the artists delivered.
Miami, Florida-born Sean Kingston took the stage and promised to “take everyone to Jamaica on a first class trip”. Born Kisean Paul Anderson in 1990, he was raised in Kingston, Jamaica and brought not only his professional name but also his reggae-rich upbringing into his career. Kingston was not yet born when the other artists in the lineup were household names, but with his DJ Nyce Hitz driving the music and sharing in the vocals, he primed fans with a brief 17-minute set. Included in the setlist were the 2007 Teen Choice award-winning song “Beautiful Girls”, and his 2010 Justin Bieber collaboration “Eenie Meenie”.
Oakland divas En Vogue opened the set with the classic ladies-empowerment anthem “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)”, stunning fans with on-point harmonies and forceful solos. Founding members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron, along with longtime member Rhonda Bennett, looked stunning in short-length tiered floral dresses showcasing long legs, sporting retro-inspired updos and bling. The former foursome, now a trio, thrilled the audience with sultry choreographed dance moves and a fierce presence.
Next up was “You Don’t Have to Worry” from their debut album Born to Sing – a fittingly titled album as these ladies were undeniably born to sing. As if twenty million records sold worldwide is not proof enough, throw in three Soul Train Awards, seven Grammy nominations, and two American Music Awards, and it’s no surprise we are sharing their songs with future generations.
Each En Vogue “funky diva” was given the spotlight on “Give It Up”, allowing them to showcase their individually stylized solos. Herron said, “Ladies with a good man, raise your hands!” as the group jumped into their Salt-N-Pepa collaboration “Whatta Man” while fans joined them in an electric slide dance. “Free Your Mind”, their hit song about racial tolerance, followed next.
Their 40-minute set also included Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, complete with air guitar, followed by a dynamic version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Something He Can Feel”. Showing appreciation to fans, Herron said, “It’s been 33 years now. Thank you for all the love and support.”
Multi-platinum artists TLC brought a dose of nostalgia to the stage. T-Boz (Tionne Watkins) still sports her asymmetrical locks, while Chilli (Rozonda Thomas) seems like she has not changed a bit. Four dancers and a live band provided support for the 90s R&B legends.
T-Boz said, “It’s hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks”, appealing to the compassion of the audience as they slowed things down a bit while she stood in front of a cooling fan. Their set kicked off with their debut hit “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” off their 1992 album Ooooooohhh, and included previously recorded raps by Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (the “L” in TLC) who tragically passed away in 2002.
“Baby-Baby-Baby” was next, and T-Boz’s signature gravelly voice transported the fans to the decade when MTV still played music videos and TLC was everywhere. Chilli sang while keeping in step with the four high-energy male dancers, showcasing dance styles from both the 90s and present day, while sporting iconic parachute pants from that era. To lead into the 1999 hit “Unpretty”, T-Boz remarked that social media is full of people trying to make everyone feel bad about themselves, and said the song should be listened to again. “Creep” was next, followed by solos from all of the dancers. While TLC took a cooling break, a DJ provided entertainment, playing mixed versions of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough”, Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life”.
On the stage’s backing screen, a video showed a guy riding as passenger in a car, along with a girl he aims to impress. Clearly leading up to “No Scrubs”, this hyped the crowd for the megahit from 1999’s Fanmail. T-Boz and Chilli turned their microphones to the concertgoers for the line “Can’t get wit’ a deadbeat ass” that they enthusiastically delivered. The screen then segued to footage of a high-contrast waterfall before their set ended with a performance “Waterfalls” from the CrazySexyCool album, which was released in 1994. Hearing the recording of Left Eye’s signature rap during this classic song while her bandmates performed it live was emotionally evocative.
While many expected TLC as the headliner, Shaggy was the final act on this night. His set kicked off with “Mood”, after which he apologized for his obviously hoarse voice in his thick Jamaican accent. The charismatic reggae-rapper, born Orville Richard Burrell, burst onto the music scene in 1992, winning 2 of his 7 Grammy nominations, and is known for collaborations with various artists in multiple genres, including Sting from The Police. Still over 100 degrees at 10 p.m. in Phoenix, Shaggy quipped, “I’ve never had to perform in this much heat in my life,” as he tossed his trademark oversized sunglasses to the side stage.
His set included samples of Bob Marley’s “One Love” and UB40’s “Red Red Wine” before he exclaimed, “We’re going to turn this bitch up” and transitioned to “In The Summertime” from Boombastic. He then grabbed his phone and turned around, taking a selfie with the crowd to “put y’all asses on YouTube”. Shaggy’s dance moves included ample provocative hip grinding, at one point suggestively stroking his microphone.
He delighted the crowd with “Angel” (his reimagining of Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning”), along with “Boombastic”, “Strength of a Woman”, and “It Wasn’t Me”. Fans especially loved his reggae version of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” from the Sting-produced album Com Fly Wid Mi released May 2023.
90s music enthusiasts, filled with nostalgic memories of MTV videos, cassette tapes, and oversized baggy clothes, braved the heat in full force while passing on their love for the “old school” to younger generations. This Phoenix stop was, hands-down, the epitome of everything the “Hot Summer Nights” tour represents.
Photographer: Katherine Amy Vega
Shaggy | TLC | En Vogue | Sean Kingston | Nyce Hitz
Shaggy, TLC, En Vogue, & Sean Kingston – Talking Stick Resort Amphitheatre 7-7-23
Photography © Katherine Amy Vega, Kataklizmic Design
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