Nelly and TLC Confirm the Past is the Future

Nelly traded in the Bandaid under his eye for a swoll upper body. Good for him.
Nelly traded in the Bandaid under his eye for a swoll upper body. Good for him. Photo by Cory Garcia
Nelly, TLC, Flo Rida
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 23, 2K19

Our love for the past is not always simply nostalgia. There are certain ages in your life when the media you consume hooks itself into your soul, and there it will live forever. The music you fall in love with as a teen will be some of the most important music of your life because you'll always love it, even as you discover new bands and sounds to fall in love with. Nostalgia is buying a concert ticket because you heard an old song on the radio you forgot about and thought, "Oh, that's really great, I'd like to hear that live." But love is never forgetting that song in the first place.

This is all to say that there are a lot of people in the greater Houston area that still love Nelly and TLC. They move their hips without regard for the personal space of others. They do that chest clutch and make full facial expressions when the songs hit them just right. They know and are happy to sing every line of every song.

This kind of full-throttle enthusiasm is what makes shows like this fun even when the performances are not necessarily top-notch. That isn't to say that Nelly or TLC were disappointments or phoned it in, but like so many other older acts steps have been lost and melodies that were a breeze back in the day can be a struggle. But aside from the adoration they receive, what made these performances work was their force of personality both acts brought to the stage.

There may be no other rapper who enjoys being who they are more than Nelly. His enthusiasm for his work is almost tangible, whether it's hyping up the crowd for the next song, introducing his family members who rap on stage with him, or enjoying a drink while his backup dancers gyrate in front of him. He's developed a pretty good life for himself, and it appears it's a life that suits him well.

TLC seemed to be equally if not more popular than Friday's headliner, and if you had the discography they have you would be too. "Creep" is the very best song about cheating on a cheater, regardless if it's a good idea or not. "No Scrubs" is the very best song about awful dudes who catcall. And "Waterfalls" is one of the most iconic songs of the '90s. While it was good to hear those songs live, the actual highlight of the set was the lead-up to "No Scrubs," in which the group took on the roles of your Auntie who needs to drop some knowledge on you. They leaned into the role really well and stretched out the buildup just long enough to engage the crowd with peak emotional response when the song kicked in proper. It was masterful.

As those '90s kids we read about in Buzzfeed posts hit their mid-'30s over the next few years, expect to see more of this era's groups banding together for summer tours the way that so many classic rock groups do. And they'll sell really well. The performance doesn't matter, but the meaning is everything.

So, How Was The Opener?: Due to Houston traffic and Pavilion parking, I missed most of Flo Rida, but the stuff I did catch was very, very good. Not sure I've ever seen anyone perform most of a song up on the lawn surrounded by screaming fans, but Flo did and it was pretty stunning. While his music isn't of the headliner's era, it meshes well enough and he's hard to beat if you're looking for an act that's going to get an audience hyped while the sun is still shining.

Personal Bias: Nelly might be the best singer/rapper hybrid I have no actual interest in. I acknowledge he's talented, and everything I've heard I liked, but I've also never gone out of my way to listen to him.

The Crowd: Middle-aged, of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

Personal Bias: Listen, I don't care who is on stage, if someone asks me "Whose house?" the answer is always going to be "Run's house!" Nothing personal, Mr. Rida. 
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia