Amid coast-to-coast frenzy about the $1.3 billion Mega Millions jackpot this week, there was only one magic number for Hollywood Bowl music fans Friday night (July 29): 30. That’s the number of hit-filled years that TLC and Boyz II Men each brought to the stage during their respective 70-minute sets that kept the audience screaming, dancing and singing along from start to finish.
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Here are five memorable moments from the Grammy-winning groups’ performances at the Bowl, now celebrating its 100th anniversary:
Hey Mr. DJ: Plugging into the ’90s nostalgia vibe that was already percolating throughout the full house, DJ Bubz jump-started his pre-intro set with DMX’s “Party Up (Up in Here).” From there, the party shifted straight into overdrive as he expertly steered into Kris Kross’ “Jump,” Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and Naughty by Nature’s “O.P.P.,” the latter of which elicited a boisterous audience sing-along and rabid arm waving. And still Bubz — who busted out his own share of energetic dance moves — kept it coming, cheekily sliding in a snippet of the theme song from TV’s The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air before whiplashing into Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It,” Ginuwine’s “Pony” and Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison.” Then as four dancers dressed in silver shimmied onstage, Bubz ended his eight-minute run by asking the hyped-up audience one question: “Are you ready for TLC?!”
Still on the TLC Tip: Also dressed in silver, TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas opened with “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” followed by “What About Your Friends” — and quickly proved that 30 years is nothin’ but a number. “We’re very happy to be here tonight,” said Chilli. “Some of you have been with us since day one … and you’re still here. We love you.” That showed as the ladies traded lead vocals, harmonized — and also kept in step with the dance crew — on a string of TLC hits including crowd-pleasers “Baby-Baby-Baby,” “Creep” and “Red Light Special” (with the stage bathed in red) as well as other cuts, such as “Diggin’ on You” and “FanMail.”
A key moment during this segment was T-Boz’s intro to the group’s No. 1 Hot 100 single “Unpretty.” Noted the singer, “This next song is near and dear to my heart because I wrote it from my heart. My boyfriend then made me feel like I wasn’t good enough. With social media now, the song still rings true today.” Then to applause, she added, “I kicked his a– to the curb.”
Remembering Lisa: Not surprisingly, the audience erupted when TLC launched into its signature No. 1 hit “No Scrubs” with Chilli noting in advance, “This one song is particularly important from generation to generation … some of you men have forgotten [audience laughs]. But we don’t ever, ever, ever want what?!” Fans screamed back, “No scrubs!” The evening’s most touching moment was a tribute to TLC co-founding member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes with the evening’s closing song “Waterfalls” — featuring Lopes’ voice on track as well — as cell phone lights lit up the Bowl. Also a Hot 100 No. 1 for the group, the single was among several TLC songs co-written by Lopes, who died in 2002.
Expect the Unexpected: That was the theme of Boyz II Men’s performance, beginning with a moving overture of several of the group’s songs — including “A Song for Mama” — performed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra led by its principal conductor, Thomas Wilkins. The theme was further underscored when Jo Koy walked onstage to introduce the group. “This is the greatest group to ever touch the microphone,” said the stand-up comic. “And we’re here to celebrate that tonight.” Wearing black tuxedos and strolling out to a standing ovation, baritone Nathan Morris and tenors Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman opened with “Oh Well,” a vocal-showcasing album track from 2002’s Full Circle.
Before segueing into “On Bended Knee,” one of several long-running Hot 100 No. 1 singles charted by the group over the years, Stockman explained what else was in store for the evening. “We wanted to do something special for you, [so] this is not your typical show,” he said. “We didn’t want to give you only what you expected. We want to give you a piece of us that you didn’t know existed.” Playing into that was the group being accompanied for the first time by the Bowl’s orchestra. Noted Stockman, “We learned about classical music going to school in Philadelphia. So this is like a homecoming.”
Pristine AF: Whether singing well-known early Boyz II Men cuts such as “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” “Water Runs Dry” and “I Will Get There” (from DreamWorks’ animated film Prince of Egypt) or lesser-known album tracks like the beautiful ballad “Girl in the Life Magazine,” the trio’s silky harmonies are still pure and mesmerizing — even more so against the orchestra’s symphonic backdrop. “We’ve always been about the music and singing organic, straight from the heart,” said Nathan at one point as the group’s band also joined them and the orchestra onstage.
And that led to another surprising twist: Shawn and Wanya picking up guitars as the group displayed their vocal versatility as well on a series of covers, beginning with Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” From there, the trio rocked out on Journey’s “Open Arms,” Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and the Guess Who’s “American Woman” (also covered by Kravitz in 1999). Diverting from the set list, the Boyz also performed engaging snippets of the Beatles’ “Come Together” and Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.” Still the evening wouldn’t have been complete without closing with two of the biggest Boyz II Men songs — and popular crowd singalongs: “I’ll Make Love to You” and “End of the Road.”