10 things we learned watching TLC play their first ever UK show
Once the world's biggest selling girl group (until the Spice Girls usurped them), TLC's legacy is assured. From tomboys in charge covered in condoms (Ooooooohhh… On The TLC Tip) to fierce feminists with a message (CrazySexyCool), their final offering as a trio before the sudden death of the inimitable Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was FanMail, which sold 10 million copies and spawned hits like "No Scrubs" and "Unpretty."
TLC's work has been truly progressive; they were the first band to get the word 'AIDS' into a number one song ("Waterfalls"). They talked about safe sex, masturbation, infidelity, cosmetic surgery, identity, femininity, and feminism. In interviews, they were as open about the issues that plagued Left Eye as they were about their own bankruptcy. They were a group ahead of their time in so many ways and the power of the trio resounds today. TLC remain timeless. So much so, it's a mystery that it's taken until 2017 for Chilli and T-Boz to play their very first show in the UK. Following their London debut last night at Koko, some 25 years after their debut single "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," we predict the pair will become a mainstay at festivals thanks to a scintillating set that paid homage to their legacy.
1. They've got places to be.
The show started at the unusually early time of 8:15. Maybe Chilli fancied an early night? Maybe T-Boz had television to catch up on? Or (more likely), Koko had a student night starting at 10. Either way, we are not mad at an early set time. Not mad at all.
2. It might be their first show in London, but it's not their only show in London.
Tonight the girls will play a special set at Tiffany & Co. Sorry y'all, it's a private event.
3. Tickets were selling for £100 (approx. $129 in US dollars) outside.
That's how much people wanted to see TLC.
4. TLC got merch. It was really great.
We suspect the CrazySexyCool version might be a little more popular than the t-shirt displaying the image of Chilli and T-Boz today.
5. They received a staggeringly warm welcome.
The roars were so loud, you could barely hear T-Boz and Chilli sing the opener "Diggin' On You." It was one of those hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck moments.
6. They put in a huge, huge effort.
To be honest, we anticipated seeing a DJ and two jaded singers half-heartedly mumbling along to a backing track. What we got was so much more than that. There was a DJ, but there was also a full band with a horn section, six dancers, and a lovely split screen with impressive visuals. Not only that, but Chilli and T-Boz rocked choreography to every track, sang live, and were generally just amazing. Far more than a heritage act cobbling together a show for some quick cash, the set was carefully thought out and brilliantly executed.
7. They are both still fit.
Chilli hasn't aged a day. She has the abs of a 19-year-old.
8. Lisa is gone, but not forgotten.
With the huge and horrible absence of Left Eye, a TLC show could have gone either way, and what could have felt cynical was anything but. Using the screen backdrop, Chilli and T-Boz ensured Lisa's presence was a constant, but they manage to avoid any mawkish overtures, leaving her words to speak the loudest. For each of her solo parts, Left Eye's voice bounced majestically around Koko, the crowd cheering her on. T-Boz and Chilli got the balance just right; any more or less might have felt maudlin or cold, instead Lisa is with them, and us, quite literally, in spirit.
9. They bought out a choir for encore "Waterfalls!"
It was just perfect.
10. The show was a total joy.
From "Red Light Special" to "No Scrubs," "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg," "Creep," "Baby-Baby-Baby," "Waterfalls," "Silly Ho" and "Unpretty," TLC's UK debut show is 75 minutes of total and utter happiness. Swerving not a single whiff of "has-been" or dusty nostalgia, they managed to sound fresh, brilliant, and relevant. So many of the messages in their songs are pertinent today. It makes you wish that all of today's acts that revere the 90s so much would actually make music like TLC did. But they don't. TLC, Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, in their prime, are untouchable. Tonight's show proved that though they come from another time, TLC is as timely as ever.
Text Hattie Collins
Photography via @mj_hewitt