MTV's TRL TOUR 2001
(featuring Destiny's Child, Nelly, Eve, Dream and 3LW)
Saturday July 28, 2001
Philips Arena-Atlanta, GA
It's a bit revealing of the mentality of the evening when a pre-show commercial appears on several video screens around the arena. It's just some cosmetic commercial, but it features tonight's headliners, Destiny's Child, so the place goes wild! This is clearly demographically targeted music as commodity. The lower regions of the arena are packed with 12 to 16-year old (mostly) females by the time 3LW hits the stage. The trio of girls in this already platinum selling multi-racial act range from 14-18 themselves so their audience is reflective of the group. The music is strictly aimed at their own age group. However, 3LWs variation on the common theme is better than most of their competition and this makes them enjoyable to people beyond high school graduation. The girls in 3LW call what they do "ghetto pop." Thats a pretty accurate term as their material has a bit more of an edge than their compatriots. Male dancers flipped around them as they sang over pre-recorded backing tracks. Their vocals were live, though, and they did them admirably well, especially considering the intense dance routines that they ran through while singing. They seemed to be having fun and their high energy level never waned. Imagine a primordial (but polished) TLC when they first broke through and you have some idea of what 3LW is about. Their performance lasted all of 20 minutes and within a few moments, 3LW had been replaced by more teenie karaoke performers.
This time it was Puff Daddy's Dream. This was an even more shiny, no rough edges whatsoever act. (One may notice the use of the word "act" here a lot. That's the only way to describe a lot of these "artists." Dream was a twenty-minute photo-op. With two Britney clones and two Jennifer Lopez wannabes, they posed and preened in white jumpsuits ala '70s Elvis. Of course, The Osmonds wore these atrocities as well and were more likely the actual influence. Here, the songwriting formula was even more monotonous than usual. At least 3LW's "No More" was bubbling with catchiness. First Dream gave the crowd "That Was Her, This Is Me" and then followed it with their first #1 single "He Loves Me, He Loves You Not." The two cuts could not have been more similar. After this clean pop, it was good to see someone with a little grit take the stage.
Eveblasted into the spotlight on an elaborate set adorned with bizarre golden scorpion-men statues. The pyro woke up the crowd, but it was the tough stance and performance by Eve herself that made her so clearly stand out this evening. Musically accompanied only by several other rappers and a DJ, she oozed attitude and let it be known early in the set that she was not rated PG. With a startlingly brutal version of "Love Is Blind" featuring reenactments by her dancers of domestic and sexual abuse, Eve set herself apart from the meaningless bubblegum pop of the previous acts. A confetti launch during the bouncing "Who's That Girl" brought some of the glitz back, but at least Eve backed it up with substance.
Nellyfollowed. His set began with several of his fellow St. Lunatics arriving one at a time on four-wheelers. As with all of the other acts except Eve, his show relied heavily on video screens and pre-recorded announcements. It was a full ten minutes into his set before Nelly even arrived on stage. When he finally did, it was with a rapturous take on his mega smash "Country Grammar." The whole arena went crazy. With a stage awash in rappers in athletic gear, Nelly seemed more a part of a group than a solo performer. The whole crew was entertaining, though. A highlight was a fleshed-out version of the theme song from The Jeffersons. Throwing out counterfeit hundred dollar bills bearing their faces during "It Must Be the Money," Nelly and the St. Lunatics raised the fever of the crowd higher. The show culminated in dozens of audience members being pulled onto the stage. It was disturbing to see so many way underage girls dancing lewdly around with these guys. Particularly disturbing was a young white girl straddling a four-wheeler suggestively while mouthing the semi-foul lyrics. Oh well, "It Must Be The Money." After Nelly rode his four-wheeler into the sunset, it became clear that scheduled performer Jessica Simpson had decided not to come on. She was allegedly spotted backstage, then backed out at the last minute. From what I later heard, this was not the first time on this tour that this had happened and it had only been on the road for a week. Not to worry, no one else seemed to care. I guess they knew that Jess would be coming to a shopping mall near them soon enough.
Headliner Destiny's Child was a whole other beast from their predecessors this evening. First, they had the only band of the evening. Second, their polish didn't diminish their power. As cliche as it may be to say this, Destiny's Child is clearly the modern day Supremes. Twelve million record sales in just a couple of years should be a tip off to that. After they rose from the floor in a circle of fire posed like Charlie's Angels, it was one hit after the other. Starting with the theme to the Charlie's Angels movie "Independent Women" and straight into "No No No," then "Bugaboo," "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name," it was almost relentless. While sidewomen Kelly and Michelle were featured in the show prominently, it was clearly Beyonce who was tonight's "Ms. Ross." The multi-tiered stage was her playground, and as Destiny's Child had live musicians, they were free to play up the songs with dynamics and sharper arrangements than on record. A letter perfect cover of Samantha Sang's 1978 hit "Emotion" (written by Barry Gibb) was followed by a costume change into flowing gowns to accompany the sentiment of "The Story Of Beauty." A video monitor explained the story behind the song. Apparently, Beyonce was inspired to write this after receiving a fan letter from a girl who had been molested by her step-father. The song was basically Beyonce's telling of the girl's story and the singer's response to the girl. It was powerful and full-on Diana. It could have segued into "Reach Out And Touch Somebody's Hand" and been appropriate. Instead, the "solo" sections of the show followed. Michelle sang alone on The Five Stairsteps' soul classic "Ooh Child" which brought the older people in the crowd to their feet. Then another tour de force from Beyonce on "Dangerously In Love" led to an accapella gospel medley from all three girls. Beyonce, Kelly and Michelle can (simply put) sing. With the lick from Stevie Nicks' "Edge Of Seventeen" pumping out of the guitar, it was time to get nasty again with the current smash "Bootylicious." this repetitive song could easily drive someone insane, but it is impossible to get out of one's head. A tease of Ike and Tina Turner's version of "Proud Mary" led into last summer's top jam "Jumpin' Jumpin'" and finally into a edgy version of "Survivor." For their finale, they busted out a strange, sappy acousta-pop number called "Happy Face." This one was Brady Bunch worthy and could've been the b-side to "Sunshine Day." Destiny's Child's set also climaxed with confetti and pulling people on stage, but they added in the touch of thousands of yellow balloons with '70's happy faces on them. The whole crowd was into it. Destiny's Child was immensely entertaining as a show. With hints of Vaudeville and Vegas, they take their actual vocal and songwriting skills and tie them in with a big old crazy spectacle, working it for all it's worth. Their show is proof that Beyonce's boast in "Survivor" that she'll still be around in 25 years is not that far-fetched.