Thank God It’s RnB Fridays

So I had to point out to a friend that the RnB Fridays Live concert wasn’t actually on Friday (which he assumed because of the name) but happening on Sunday. I can see how that would be confusing. Needless to say, the massive queues forming around the venue on Sunday indicated that everyone got the memo and turned up on the right day.

It felt kind of strange arriving at the Entertainment Centre so early in the day, but with ten acts to get through, a 4:30pm start was necessary to cram it all in. However, this meant we had a very big evening ahead and a 6.5 hour long gig was quite an effort to make especially on a ‘school night.’ A dilemma for most of us who enjoyed 90s/00s RnB when it first came out and wanted to reminisce in our youth, except now we were old, tired and had to get up early for work the next day. If only we could have RnB Fridays Live on an actual Friday!

Also the following issues came to mind when old and attending an event at 4:30pm: Do I eat before or after? What if I’m hungry/thirsty? If I eat/drink during the show do I risk going to the toilet and potentially spend the whole evening lining up forever and miss out on stuff including my spot near the front of the stage? The FOMO was strong and for once in my life I sacrificed food/drink. I was committed and in it till the very last air horn sound effect was played.

Shows featuring multiple acts doing short sets suit my attention span perfectly. Especially when it involves artists that you kind of remember but only really know one of their songs. Or you totally know the song but never knew who the artist is. Yeah that.

Which brings me to the first act Ruff Endz. Who are Ruff Endz you ask? I had no idea either until I did some ‘research’ on Spotify and kept skipping through songs until I heard ‘that one that I knew.’ (If you’re into early 00’s R&B you’ll remember “No More” and be like “Oh THAT song!” and you’ll wonder why the name Ruff Endz never stuck in your memory). The duo performed a short set featuring a couple of songs I didn’t know and the one that I did. Pretty sure there was a flash of semi naked torsos via open flowy shirts too. An essential part of any RnB show.

I wasn’t sure how Monifah was going to fill her 10 min slot as I’m pretty sure she only had one hit. There had to be at least one cover surely. The crowd wasn’t too familiar with the first song but luckily and as expected the second song was a cover of Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s Wild Thoughts which perked everyone up just in time for her hit single Touch It. “How many of y’all gonna touch something tonight?” she asks the crowd. A question that I’m sure most of us weren’t expecting to hear before 5pm on a Sunday.

The MC for the evening was professional hype man Fatman Scoop and FYI – not as fat I expected him to be. Obviously running around and shouting down a mic every night has worked wonders for him! He does a call out for girls in the audience that want to join him on stage for a dance/twerk off. (Side note: I know it’s a no brainer but if you ever want to be that girl and you aren’t wearing really short shorts, you haven’t got a chance!) Not sure if the winner actually received a prize but surely the glory of having Fatman Scoop grinding up against you in front of thousands of people was enough? Well, at least it would’ve made for a decent Snapchat/Instastory.

Christina Milian was up next and she took to the stage with her two dancers as if it was 2001. Seriously that girl has not aged. Performing all of her hits including AM to PM, Say I, When You Look At Me, Like Me and Dip It Low, they worked the crowd for the duration of the whole set, especially with the final song Hello, a dance track that she featured on by Aussie DJ/Producers Stafford Brothers. Everyone including myself at this point is like “Oh that was HER!” Christina’s performance may have been over but this wasn’t the last we saw of her as she spent most of night watching the other acts and dancing in the corporate box which at times we found more entertaining to see than what was on stage. It made me wish I was up there partying with her instead of being amongst the common folk having to avoid beer spillage on my new sneakers and trying not to trigger a fight by accidentally elbowing someone.

The changeover between sets was ideal for toilet/food breaks, if you liked queuing. For the rest of us remaining in the arena dehydrated, starving and risking bladder infections, we were treated to DJ Horizon hyping the crowd up with all of the RnB classics including a Hot 30 Countdown with hits from TLC, 50 Cent, P-Diddy, Beyonce, 112, Usher, RKelly and even a bit of Michael Jackson accompanied by the videos on the big screens. Sometimes if felt as if the crowd was more excited about the songs during the breaks rather than the actual acts themselves. Which I guess reflects just how popular old school RnB music and RnB Fridays has become. A few “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi”s later Fatman Scoop takes his shirt off, shouts down the mic a bit more and then we’re onto the next act.

Opening with his 2002 hit Just a Friend, Mario works the stage on his own and knows what the ladies in the crowd want. Taking notes from RnB kings Boyz II Men, he brings out a big bunch of red roses during Let Me Love You which he hands to random audience members (who don’t mind having to hold on to a wilting rose for the rest of the night). Personally, I couldn’t care less for roses but even I reached my hand out in excitement hoping he’d give me one too. During mid set chats, Mario explains how hard it is to pick his favourite place around the world but says,“Tonight Adelaide, I Choose You.” Aw, bless. Pretty sure that’s a lie but we’ll take that compliment anyways, thanks! Cue the song I Choose You when we are asked to put our phone torches in the air to light up the arena which did look pretty magical. (I did not participate though as I wanted to save my battery life for Craig David and still had another 4 acts to go).

Growing up listening to En Vogue I knew all the hits but looking around I realised that most of the crowd probably weren’t even born when My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It) came out in 1992. Yep, that’s 25 years ago. (Just let that simmer for a moment). Also 2 out of 3 members in the group were part of the original line up back in ‘89 (yes, we googled this during the show) which means that they would be in their 50s now (yes, we googled their ages too). Pretty incredible if you saw how good they looked and these ladies were definitely working the stage. So when they say black don’t crack, they were not wrong.

The crowd may have been a bit slow to warm to My Lovin’ but as soon as Whatta Man started it triggered everyone’s memory, including mine. Hang on, did they sing this? Wait, isn’t this a Salt n Pepa song? Well actually it was both. En Vogue also featured on this track. Diva anthem Free Your Mind and classic Don’t Let Go were highlights and a great excuse to stick a power ballad fist in the air. We were also treated to their new single I’m Good while finishing off their set with Hold On (something I was doing a lot of by this point as I hadn’t been to the toilet in hours).

By now the crowd is buzzing waiting for one of the main acts of the night – Kelis, and she does not disappoint. Kelis is so cool that she can turn up on stage in a fancy tracksuit (Chanel on this occasion) and still look like the coolest person ever. In fact, she looked so comfy I regretted not wearing tracky daks to the gig myself. (Except mine would be more Kmart than Chanel). Joined onstage by DJ Nikki Beatnik from the UK, Kelis treated us to all the hits including Millionaire, Good Stuff, Caught Out There, Got Your Money, Trick Me and Lil’ Star. Then they switched things up a bit. Finally the song we all wanted to hear – Milkshake was played but in a mash up with Wu-tang Clan’s Gravel Pit. Next minute we hear Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit and before we know it, the place had somehow gone from Australia’s biggest RnB party to Australia’s biggest dance party, just in time to end the set on a high with Calvin Harris’ Bounce and Acapella.

By the time Kelly Rowland is on the crowd is beyond excited. I mean, this is Kelly Rowland! From Destiny’s Child! This was exciting stuff. Hitting the stage with her two dancers we are reminded of how good her solo singles are with hits such as Like This, Stole, Motivation and Dilemma which included a lil’ karaoke section on the big screen featuring Nelly’s head. The karaoke continued with some Bob Marley – Is This Love? which was cool, but let’s face it though – we all knew what we were waiting to hear. So when Kelly asked the crowd, “How many Destiny’s Child fans are there?”we were ready. And Kelly definitely gave us what we wanted with a Destiny’s Child medley featuring Say My Name, Soldier, Survivor, (“Put your hands up if you’ve survived anything!” Pretty vague question but yes, yes Kelly I have. *Raises hand*) and Independent Women.

There doesn’t seem to be an RnB/pop concert these days without a lucky audience member being invited onstage to get a cheeky (and not creepy at all) lap dance from one of the dancers. The Sydney show was lucky enough to witness Delta Goodrem having this pleasure, but here in Adelaide we had what appeared to be two members of the audience get up. However, we realised later that they were in fact Christina Milian’s dancers. Probably a much wiser move to use mates rather than actual punters/strangers for such lap dance segments in order to avoid awkward moments/sexual harassment lawsuits. (It is 2017 after all). Kelly ends her set with the hands in the air dancefloor anthem When Love Takes Over remixed with Coldplay’s Clocks. Another interesting mash up of the evening. (But seriously guys the original versions sound great as they are, just sayin).

As the first act of the evening to perform with a live band we knew Ne-Yo was going to be a true professional. Appearing in his trademark hat, he opened with So Sick and included all the hits such as Miss Independent, Because of You, Sexy Love and Closer as well as his own version of Irreplaceable which he actually wrote for Beyonce. So not only can he sing, dance and look good in a hat, he also writes songs for other artists. Early on in the set, he removed his hat which surprised me as it’s Ne-Yo, he ALWAYS wears a hat. But cue spiel about self-love and the importance to “be who you are” and how he wasn’t going to hide under a hat anymore. Preach Ne-Yo, preach!! However, he did put the hat back on by the end of the set but I guess old habits are hard to break. And plus, he looks good in hats. And he must have loads of them.

Finally the part of the show I was most excited for: Craig David presents TS5. WTF is a TS5 you ask? Well according to the internet, TS5 was the number of his home in Miami where he started throwing massive house parties for friends before they went out clubbing. (That’s some epic pre-drinks hey). So thanks to RnB Fridays Live we get to experience the essence of these parties without going all the way to Miami and trying to bribe/talk our way into Craig David’s house.

With only a mic and a laptop on stage, Craig went back to his roots as a DJ and MC and got the party started with a bit of R.Kelly’s Bump n Grind before going straight into where it all began with the Artful Dodger’s Rewind. Like a true house party there’s a mixture of old and new classics including Drake, TLC, Dr Dre and House of Pain mixed in with his hits such as Fill Me In, Rendezvous, Walking Away and Flava. Also his Music Sounds Better With You/Wild Thoughts mash up was definitely a crowd favourite. Craig’s ability to totally own a live one man DJing/MCing/singing/freestyle rapping show, plus somehow still be able to work the stage proved to us that after all these years he’s still got it. Or perhaps he never lost it? Although I enjoyed the TS5 experience, it would’ve been great to have heard more of his original material especially with a live band and many other people I spoke to agreed. (Maybe next time Craig?) He finished off his set with his ultimate classic hit 7 Days and I was grateful that he did not ‘chill on Sunday’ and came out to perform for us instead.

The final act of this evening was Sean Paul and judging by his stage set up it appeared they were saving the best (or most extravagant artist) till last. With a full band, DJ, dancers, a hype man, a towel/jacket removal guy and a hot dude that looked like he was filming stuff for social media (we weren’t quite sure what he was actually doing but enjoyed watching either way), it was clear that most of the budget would’ve gone here. Once Sean Paul hit the stage with Get Busy the place turned into one big reggae dance hall party. You forget how many collaborations Sean Paul has done including Baby Boy with Beyonce and Cheap Thrills which featured Adelaide’s own Sia. In fact I was waiting for an acknowledgement of this local connection, but no. For the rest of the night it was hit after hit including Got 2 Luv U, Breathe, Like Glue, Rockabye, Gimme the Light and he also did a version of Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You. I really wanted to do some ‘dutty wining’ (google it) but to be honest I was busting for the toilet so bad and didn’t want to wet myself. Looking around the arena though, it was a shame that a big chunk of the crowds in the balcony had already bailed (it was 10:15pm on a Sunday I guess) but regardless we still had a ball and stayed till the very end. Sean Paul tells the crowd “When I say fire you say blaze” and we repeat it back to him which seemed appropriate as his set finished with Temperature. By this point we were hot, sweaty, in desperate need of a toilet, fluid intake, deodorant, some fresh air and our beds.

So that was another RnB Fridays Live and if the TLC teaser video during the show is anything to go by, we can’t wait to hear the line-up for the 2018 tour. Also hopefully Adelaide will get an RnB Fridays Live show on an actual Friday to avoid any confusion…

Review By Flower Knutas