TLC treat their UK fans with a ‘joyous’ stage debut

Tionne T-Boz Watkins and Rozonda Chilli Thomas share a hug during rehearsals for their first-ever London show

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Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas share a hug during rehearsals for their first-ever London show

“It’s been 25 long years,” said Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, as TLC took to the stage for their first ever UK show.

“Can ya’ll believe this is the first time? It’s crazy”.

It certainly felt like a celebration, as 25 years of anticipation translated into one of the most joyous and affectionate shows in living memory.

Throughout the 16-song set, the band held the outstretched hands of their audience; who sang back hits like No Scrubs at the top of their voices.

Many had come wearing the “war paint” make-up of the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died in 2002. The band paid tribute to the rapper on Meant To Be, flashing up vintage images of the then-trio in the 1990s.

Media captionTLC speaking ahead of their gig in Camden

The remaining members have lost none of their individuality over the years, emerging on stage in gold sequinned combat trousers, and bright yellow trench coats.

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins provided the grit, thanks to her distinctively raspy vocals; while Chilli was the more supple dancer, hustling across the stage with the dance troupe and, on Red Light Special, giving one audience member a PG-rated lap dance.

“I’m here with my girlfriend,” declared her willing victim, briefly taking the mic. “I asked her if this was alright and she said ‘yes.'”

And if that isn’t proof that TLC’s message of female self-empowerment filtered down to their audience, I don’t know what is.

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Michael Hewitt / Twitter

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TLC fan Michael Hewitt posted images from the front row of the concert on Twitter

Until the Spice Girls came along, TLC were the most successful girl band of all time, selling 65 million records, and setting a template for confident, feminist RB that still resonates today in the music of Beyonce, Rihanna and even Little Mix.

As their career progressed, the band sometimes made headlines for the wrong reasons – from their highly-publicised bankruptcy, to the day Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes set fire to her boyfriend’s shoes in a fit of rage, only for his house to burn down completely.

Somehow, they always rose above the chaos with supple, futuristic hits like Creep, Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg and Unpretty – until Lopes was involved in a fatal car accident in 2002.

The band completed an album, 3D, in tribute to their “beloved sister”, using fragments of vocals Lopes had recorded before her death, but that seemed to be the end of their story.

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Getty Images

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TLC at the 1995 MTV Video Music Awards: (L-R) T-Boz, Chilli, Left-Eye

However, after a widely-praised biopic in 2013, T-Boz and Chilli hit the road again and, two years ago, successfully crowd-funded a new album, simply called TLC, which is due out next month.

The band played four songs from the new record in London. Three of them, Way Back, Joy Ride and Haters, were a throwback to the smooth and melodic sounds TLC pioneered in the 90s.

However, It’s Sunny (receiving its world premiere) sounded more like Pharrell’s feelgood jam Happy – interpolating the horn charts from Earth, Wind and Fire’s September and, more surprisingly, a sample of the Boney M song, Sunny.

Encouragingly, the audience received these songs with as much enthusiasm as hits like Digging On You and What About Your Friends.

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TLC

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The band are about to release their fifth, and final, album

But the biggest response of the night came during the encore, when Left-Eye appeared on the video screens for Waterfalls‘ rap breakdown. A huge cheer gave way to a mass rendition of her tongue-twisting, Bart Simpson-esque bars.

“We’ll never ever forget her,” Chilli told the BBC ahead of the concert, which was streamed live on Facebook.

“I don’t think you can ever heal 100% because that’s our sister and we love her. But her memory lives on through us.”

“She lives through our music,” agreed T-Boz, “and she’s incorporated in everything that we do”.

TLC SET LIST

  • Digging On You
  • What About Your Friends
  • Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg
  • Silly Ho
  • Red Light Special (Chilli solo)
  • Baby, Baby, Baby
  • Unpretty
  • Creep
  • It’s Sunny
  • Way Back
  • Fanmail
  • Meant To Be
  • Haters
  • No Scrubs

Encore

  • Joy Ride
  • Waterfalls

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