It has probably been twenty plus years since I have been in this venue. Once upon a time it was called The Clipsal Powerhouse and I think the last thing I saw here was Tom Jones. Probably when I was at that show the charts were full of a stream of commercial cross over rap acts that had caught the public imagination and had Blue Light Discos jumping around to Ice Ice Baby, Push It, and Funky Cold Medina. Tonight the Titanium Stadium is bursting at the seams with people who really do love the 90’s.
The format for this kind of tour is well established now. They gather a bunch of acts together from the charts of days gone by and each do brief, hit heavy sets in quick succession. It is a great set up in that everybody mostly gets the hit songs they want to hear, and if you are not a big fan of any one act they whizz by quite quickly and you are onto the next one. The disadvantage is if you are a massive fan of one of the acts (especially the ones early in the night) you are just getting an entre course instead of a main. But like any good banquet, there are enough interesting dishes that means this musical smorgasbord is quite the feast. Sometimes these shows have an ‘in-house’ band, or a DJ and sometimes just backing tracks and tonight is a combination of all of the above.
First up is Young MC. Many years ago I did a phone interview with Young MC. As I often did I thought I’d break the ice with a funny question. Me : “So you have been called Young MC since you were eight years old?”.
Young MC : “That’s right.”
Me : “Does that mean that eventually you will become ‘Not As Young As I Used To Be MC or Getting On A Bit Now MC?”
Young MC : “…………………………………………………………….No I think I’ll just keep it as it is.”.
Okay I’ll admit, it was awkward. Young MC turned 50 years this year and he is amped up and ready to get this party started. He prowls the stage, he tells us to ‘Bus it’. He plays a song called Nocturnal (“…from my directorial debut, which you can find on the internet” he shamelessly plugs during the song). A couple of songs in he does a pretty bang on mash-up of his 1988 single Know How, which already featured a sample of The Theme From Shaft, but tonight he has mashed Midnight Oil’s Bed’s Are Burning seamlessly into the mix and it works really well. Bust a Move is the one everybody has been waiting for and everybody goes suitably crazy ape-shit bonkers. Given that the acts early in the show tonight were mostly only doing around fifteen minutes , I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get his second biggest hit Principals Office. But I guess that might have seemed a little silly coming from a fifty year old rapper, after all he is not as young as he used to be.
Tone Loc is up next and his gravelly voice is unmistakeable even after all this time. He’s very entertaining. When he and his crew kick into Funky Cold Medina, the place goes crazy. Everybody is dancing and bumping and grinding. It’s such a super catchy song and the 1988 single was full of samples from classic rock songs like Honky Tonk Women (Rolling Stones), Christine Sixteen (Kiss), All Right Now (Free), Hot Blooded (Foreigner) and Bachman Turner Overdrive’s You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. With that much bona fide riffage how could it fail.
Nearly thirty years later, I am struggling with it lyrically though. A song basically advocating slipping women who weren’t interested in your advances, a drink which instantly makes them sexually available to you, is all a bit Cosby (and there is also the homophobic tone of the verse about finding somebody attractive enough to take home and being repulsed to find out they are a dude). Am I over thinking this? I am clearly out numbered tonight, if I am. He does a cool version of Snoop Dogg‘s Gin & Juice before they get a big bunch of girls out of the audience on stage to the Wild Thing with Mr Loc.
No shortage of crunking and booty shaking with many happily grinding up against Tone as he gets around to everybody on the stage. Young MC actually had a hand in writing Tone Loc’s biggest hits, so big night for him too. Between acts the DJ is playing clips from New Kids on the Block and Bell Biv Devoe and keeping the retro party vibe happening.
Color Me Badd are currently a three piece and are busting out the old school R&B vibes and doing the choreography that people know from the videos from the 90’s. They mash up their big hit I Adore Mi Amore with Michael Jacksons Rock With You. They cover No Diggity (originally by Blackstreet), before letting everybody know that they have some other plans for us. I Wanna Sex You Up was such a massive hit in 1991. It was their first single and was a top ten single all over the world and goes down gangbusters tonight.
Coolio comes out of the dark dressed in white and wearing some Christmas tree lights flickering on and off. He is wearing a baseball cap which has holes in it for his trademark ‘twig’ hair style to poke through. He also has the closest to a band, a guitar player, drummer and sax player all fill out the sound. Some people put him in the one-hit wonder basket, but he was a very well respected rapper in his day. Highlights of his set include a fantastic version of his 1997 hit CU When U Get There (with purple Rain intro) and of course the show stopping Gangsters Paradise.
After a short break Salt’N’Pepa and DJ Spinderella hit the stage and level of sassiness goes up 400% and these three show us just why they are still going strong after thirty one years. When Salt’N’Pepa first started making records they were really swimming upstream. They were women. They were black. They were making hip hop records. Almost all of the things that would have them ignored by MTV and mainstream radio and derided by what was largely a boys club in that musical genre.
As a result, Salt’N’Pepa had to be tougher, better and brasher. And right from their earliest released they were making exceptionally great hip hop sides. Tramp, The Show Stoppa and the classic My Mic Sounds Nice were all killer records in 1985. But it was the release of the utterly irresistible Push It in 1987 that jumped them into the mainstream audience. Over the next few years their sound morphed into more of an R’n’B flavour which saw them ride the top of the charts over and over again. And damn they be sexy songs. They wanted to talk about sex baby, they wanted a man (but whatta man, whatta mighty, mighty good man) and they made us ALL want to Shoop!
Tonight they own the stage, they sashay and strut, and deliver all the hits this sold out crowd could have wanted. Shake You Thang, Expression, Let’s Talk About Sex are all here and in the middle of their set Spinderella (still one of my all time favourite DJ names) throws an old school DJ set dropping tracks by Arrested Development, House of Pain, Guns’n’Roses and Nirvana. They get a bunch of guys out of the crowd for Whatta Man, letting them know “If you are on stage with us we only have two rules. You either got to have money, or you got to have moves”. Shoop blows the roof off the joint and the opening beats of Push It, send that roof off into outer space. Salt’N’Pepa were fan-bloody-tastic.
I had mentioned that Vanilla Ice was headlining this show to a friend of mine and his response was ‘Didn’t he only have one song?’. And while it is true that his biggest hit eclipsed everything else he has done, he has been out there doing things for close to the last thirty years. He keeps making music. He turned up on the Jedward remake of Ice Ice Baby in 2010. He has done a bit of acting, had his own reality TV show and last year was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars. And unlike many of his bad boy rapper contemporaries has actually probably been in more trouble with Johnny law than a bunch of them combined. He was in Australia a few years back on one of the dance festivals and a bunch of my friends went mostly as a joke. They all reported back that he was great and put on an excellent show.
Tonight his bombastic party vibe is completely infectious. He is a good rapper, but also a terrific showman. He is flinging bottles of water over the crowd (and photographers) and is bustin’ rhymes all over. He is wearing a jacket that has a zipper that lights up from time to time, which is cool. He invites a big crowd of people up on the stage women and men, “Let’s make this on old school block party!”. And he is dancing with people and doing selfies and generally having a ball. His DJ is wearing a Port Power shirt and a few songs in Ice whips off his jacket to reveal a Crows Guernsey and everybody cheers. He does Ninja Rap from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 soundtrack (which I had almost forgotten about) and only a few songs in the riff from Queen‘s Under Pressure fills the arena and Ice Ice Baby has every single person on their feet, pumping their fists in the air. It’s awesome. But what will he do for the rest of the set?
He’s played his biggest song, where is there to go from there? Well, he takes that Block Party vibe seriously and cranks out versions of Turn Down For What, the huge club hit for DJ Snake in 2013. Okay, I think that’s a bit weird. Then he does Paper Planes from M.I.A. and is smashing it. To finish he does a surprisingly good cover of Bob Marleys No Woman No Cry. (!!!). I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting that. Vanilla Ice was bloody great. I suspect I Love the 90’s will be back next year with another line-up, don’t hesitate to go back to the future.
Word to your Mother!
Review by Ian Bell