Last night, The Great Xscape Tour rolled into Columbus, OH and me and every other Black woman over 30 in the city (and surrounding cities) were in the building. Although I was excited, I had heard so many mixed reviews that I decided to temper my expectations so that I wouldn’t be disappointed. This is not to say that I thought it wouldn’t be a great show but I definitely didn’t want to set myself up to be hyped about it and then it turn out to be not so great.
When I first got there, maybe a few minutes after 7 (the concert start time), there was a young girl group performing. They are called June’s Diary. They sang well and gave off a lively, positive, “I’m just happy to be here” vibe. They covered a few well-known songs and were pretty good vocally, in my opinion, for an opening act.
The next opening act was Zonnique also known as “Nique Nique”–Tiny’s daughter, T.I’s stepdaughter, former member of OMG Girlz, and current Growing Up Hip Hop cast member. I’m sure she has a fan base but it was pretty clear that she was on the ticket due to her familial connections. It didn’t appear as if the current crowd was really feeling her. That’s not to say that she was bad. I just think this wasn’t her crowd. Thankfully, her performance was over just as quickly as it started.
Tamar…She…Her…whatever other third person reference she uses when talking about herself was next on the stage. I know that a lot of people can’t take Tamar seriously as an artist or even as a person because of her “extraness” on The Braxtons and Tamar and Vince, but honestly, I love her extraness. Yeah she’s annoying, self-centered, and attention-seeking, but it makes for great entertainment, right?
Although I am personally able to tolerate her antics more than a lot of people I know, I did not have very high expectations for her performance. I mean, unlike the other artists on the ticket, she lacks a catalog of hits. And honestly, her performance reflected that. She sang “The One” (my favorite), “Love and War”, “Hot Sugar”, and her current popular single, “My Man”, a ballad that was inspired by the infidelity in her parents’ marriage. This was a perfect segue into a conversation about her own marital issues. Perched atop a makeshift throne wearing a taffeta tutu-like skirt with her dancers at her side, she eagerly reveled in the already spilled tea about her and Vince’s failing marriage. She threw lots of shade at Vince and confirmed that yes, the divorce is still happening. Beyond being her messy self, she did well with keeping the energy high…but it had less to do with her singing and more to do with her lip smacking and popping into the microphone…true Tamar fashion, of course. So basically, Tamar did what she does best—drama. The singing was a bonus.
Growing up in the mid-90s, Monica’s music was the soundtrack to my high school years. “Just One of Them Days” was the PMS anthem, “Why I Love You So Much” was the heartfelt expression of first love, and “Before You Walk Out of My Life” was the heart-wrenching song you played on repeat when that first love no longer loved you so much. Monica and her counterparts carried you through the joys and pains of young love and she even had a few upbeat hits to make you forget about it all. So to say that I was looking forward to and had high hopes for her performance is an understatement. And she certainly delivered. Not only did she sing all of my favorites, including the aforementioned songs, she also sang “You Shoulda Known Better”, “For You I Will”, and the little more grown-up love songs, “You’re Everything to Me” and “Love All Over Me”. However, one of the best parts of her performance was her tribute to the great Lauryn Hill aka L-Boogie. She beautifully covered “Killing Me Softly” and “Lost Ones”, doing them both justice in a way that I am sure would be pleasing to Ms. L-Boogie herself. In a nutshell, Monica did her thing. The only gripe I have is that she had way too many wardrobe changes (three!) for the amount of time that she performed. But otherwise, she was a great appetizer for the main course…
After a brief intermission to change the stage setup, Xscape would soon be on their way out. During the break, I anxiously anticipated how they would come out. Would they come out in their signature 90s era baggy outfits to “Just Kickin’ It” or would they start with a more grown and sexy look with a song from Traces of My Lipstick? Surely it would be baggy and “Just Kickin’ It…I mean, that’s their breakout song. But nope. They came out in baggy clothing singing “Feels So Good” from their sophomore album, Off The Hook. Huh? AND the baggy outfits looked more like ridiculously oversized astronaut suits than the baggy colorful jeans and tops I had expected. Then they ripped off the astronaut suits to reveal form-fitting gold sequined outfits that they subsequently covered with choir robes to sing the gospel-flavored “Is My Living in Vain”. It was all a little awkward to me but hey, there was still so much show left, right? Even with what I would call an underwhelming opening, they made up for it by “bringing it” for the rest of the show. They did “Who Can I Run To” and the grown and sexy “Do You Want To” and “Work Me Slow”, also from the Off the Hook album. Their singing and their moves were on point. Not bad for some old ladies, huh?
For “Work Me Slow”, Kandi brought her hubby Todd on to the stage to demonstrate some “slow work”, at times going way beyond PG-13, especially in one pose in which she strategically angled the microphone. They rounded out the NC-17 imagery with a few slow and sultry Traces of My Lipstick hits, including “Softest Place on Earth”, “One of Those Love Songs”, and “The Arms of the One Who Loves You”. Of course, the upbeat “My Little Secret” was included as well. What I loved most about the Xscape performance was that no matter if the songs were slow or fast, super popular or slept-on gems, the crowd stayed on their feet, loudly singing along. You could tell that they (we) were all true Xscape fans.
I tend to go to bed pretty early, can fall asleep no matter what is going on around me, and have even fallen asleep at a concert before (it was my first concert and I was only 8 or 9…LOL) but I was so engaged that I was not even watching the clock. However, when they started performing “Just Kickin’ It”, I knew that we were close to the end. That is either an entry song or a close out song but not an in-between song. As expected, it was a crowd favorite with the energy heightened only at the realization that the final song of the night would be “Understanding”. Always save the best for last.
All in all, it was time and money well spent. Tamar ignited the crowd, Monica kept the momentum going, and Xscape provided the climax. It was great to not only see one of my favorite girl groups back together again but to briefly relive my young and innocent days with a group of women, both on the stage and in the crowd, who were also reliving theirs. Long live the 90s.