Oh the ‘90s, how I look upon you with such fond memories. It has surely been a hot minute since the era when pop culture fashioned bold, geometric print clothing, Beanie Babies, Friends, primitive technologies, such as the World Wide Web, pagers, and portable CD players, and so much more. In the music world, grunge and hip hop exploded during this time and introduced names like Tone Loc, Coolio, Vanilla Ice, TLC and countless artists for whom I have a special place in my heart.
Some of my most formative years, ages two through eleven, happened to be during this decade when various rock, pop, hip hop and R&B hit-makers blessed us all with popular songs still hot today. I grew up listening to and idolizing ’90s musicians, so it should come as no surprise that I nearly flipped my lid once I caught word of the I Love the 90s Tour rolling through our town. The show hit Knoxville on Thursday, April 6th at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium, and I was there to feast my ears and eyes on the musical trendsetters who shaped my upbringing.
From beginning to very end, when on went the lights and it was time to boot us out, the concert was rampant with an unbelievable liveliness. Entertainment Weekly was not kidding when they hailed this show an arena-sized dance party. There was no one I could find sitting in their seats at any point during the concert, nor was there any opportunity for a dull moment because a DJ spun treasured ‘90s tunes between sets, like Run D.M.C’s “It’s Tricky” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, which caused attendees to maintain peak energy levels.
The I Love the 90s show kicked off with a set from Young MC, though I unfortunately arrived after he finished. Next up to the stage was rapper Tone Loc. For weeks, I’d been raving to my coworkers about how excited I was to see him perform. Not only were his songs played and danced to regularly in my household, he starred in one of my favorite childhood movies, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. I was stoked to know I would even be in the same room as the ’90s star.
Tone Loc came onto the stage and greeted the arena in that same raspy voice I’ve grown to know. He told concert-goers about his flight from Los Angeles that arrived only 20 minutes before the show, then he quickly started up with the crowd-favorite song “Funky Cold Medina.” Everyone went absolutely bonkers! Likewise, everyone roared for “Wild Thing” after two seconds of recognizing that hit’s guitar riff. Many female fans were invited onto the stage and they took full advantage of the occasion. Whether it was the song lyrics of “Wild Thing” or proximity to the handsome rapper that brought out their feisty rump-shaking, the ladies surely got wild. I was so tickled by the performance, I had to document and share with all of Twitter how much fun people were having with Tone Loc. To my surprise, he retweeted the video the next day.
After Tone Loc, another beloved ’90s group to grace the stage was Color Me Badd. The denim-wearing trio danced in unison to “All for Love” and “I Wanna Sex You Up.” When they weren’t performing flawless choreography, Color Me Badd threw roses into crowd. The band’s cover songs of Michael Jackson’s “I Wanna Rock with You” and Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” were as impressive and entertaining as the originals they sang.
Coolio was the third act I saw that night, and his set completely transported me back to my childhood. I can’t even tell you how many times I used to play “Gangsta’s Paradise” back then. As a kid, there was once a time before I even had headphones, so I would lay on the ground and put the separate radio speakers near both ears. I probably screwed up my hearing, but oh well. It was worth it!
As if no time has passed at all, Coolio still sounds and looks the same, sporting those signature wisps of hair. During his set, he amped up the crowd by asking us to put our middle fingers in the air and scream a certain expletive. He serenaded the audience with his funky rendition of “Fantastic Voyage” and the vibe throughout the concert hall was chill AF. I was pleasantly surprised to learn his whole band is from the areas of Long Beach, Carson, and Gardena, California, near my hometown. An unexpected and truly beautiful part of the show was his tribute to the late Prince. It was a tender moment as we all swayed to “Purple Rain.” After his final song, Coolio thanked the crowd and humbly imparted, “Keep doing what you’re doing. Take care of yourself, take care of your family. Love your neighbor.”
Acts by All-4-One and Rob Base were equally stellar performances. All-4-One wowed us with their well-known, romantic ballads “I Swear” and “I Can Love You Like That”, and jazzed things up with covers of “Poison” and “This is How We Do It.” Just in case we forgot, Rob Base reminded us it takes two to make a thing go right. I won’t forget his live version of “Joy & Pain” and how us concert-goers danced the Tootsie Roll between songs.
Last but certainly not least, headliners Salt and Pepa with Spinderella took to the stage. The gals teased us with a chorus or two from hip hop hit “Salt Shaker” before dipping into their classic catalog. A playful Salt joked, “Salt and Pepa have been doing this for thirty-one years and Pepa is still loud as she eva been.” Then, Spinderella tested our 90s knowledge by playing tunes like “Jump Around”, “Sweet Child of Mine”, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and other old school jams. Back-up dancers displayed frisky moves to “Let’s Talk About Sex” before Salt and Pepa closed the show with their timeless hit “Push It.” What’s cool is they wore the authentic black and yellow jackets from the original music video of the song, and both the look and sound of Salt and Pepa’s 1990s essence took the crowd on a fantastic voyage back to that time.
If you love 90s tunes as much as I do and want to hear songs from these and other artists, tune in to 90.3 The Rock’s specialty shows like “Smells Like 90s Rock”, “The Mothership” and more. WUTK has the classic alternatives you’re lookin’ for, so check it out!
Written by Chloe D. Follow me on Twitter: @ChloeWUTK