Between the hours of 6:30pm and 10:30pm last night, I was transported into a world of pure nostalgia.
When the tickets for the Kisstory Blast Off Tour came on sale last year, I just knew that I had to go. Being the only wannabe gangster in my friendship group, I thought nothing of ‘riding solo’ and going alone. In fact, I was pretty damn excited about going on my own – it was my opportunity to fully immerse myself in the genre of music that I love so much without distractions or interruptions.
For me, R&B is more than just a genre; it is a way of life. Everything from my morals to my memories are ignited from my passion for R&B. From an early age, I learned the importance of being an independent woman, attributable to the likes of TLC and Blu Cantrell. The importance of self-worth was drummed into me by Mary J and Destiny’s Child. I always swore that if the love in any future relationships didn’t replicate the lyrics of a 90’s R&B song, then I didn’t want to know. If the passion didn’t feel like a Wayne Wonder or Darnell Jones track, it could swivel, as far as I was concerned!
I can definitely say that my abnormal levels of sass are attributable to 26 years of dedicated R&B consumption!
The Kisstory Blast Off Tour gathered some of R&B’s greatest artists and brought them together for an evening I will never forget. DJ Luck & MC Neat, Sweet Female Attitude, So Solid Crew, Fatman Scoop, Shaggy, Blu Cantrell, Eve, Mya, Salt n Pepa and Nelly made up last night’s Kisstory dream team, and the atmosphere was insane. There were no bad vibes whatsoever; everyone was simply there to have a good time and unite in the music. The roof of the arena was lifted by the unique memories of 21,000 people as the music evoked tantalising reminisces within us all.
I was instantly transported back to being six years old, listening to Galaxy 102 in my dad’s car in the height of summer. The sun’s rays streamed through the open car window and caressed my arm. Alongside my dad, I would recite the words to every single hit, from Jay-Z classics to Ashanti’s latest tune. I didn’t know it at the time, but such simple moments would shape my taste in music for the rest of my life.
Having been brought up on R&B, hip-hop and garage from a very young age, while the rest of my classmates were crushing on Duncan from Blue and other such early 00s heartthrobs, I was busy planning my future marriage to Romeo Dunn.
I remember watching Top of the Pops at my grandma’s house one Friday night. Romeo was performing his new song... titled ‘Romeo.’ I think I fell in love there and then!
My husband (who, fast forward 20 years, sadly isn’t Romeo Dunn), recently heard Romeo for the first time, and reacted in a way that could have potentially triggered divorce.
“He wrote a song about himself? Jesus!” My husband snubbed, rolling his eyes.
“Well, wouldn’t you if you were Romeo Dunn?!” I snapped back.
That shut him up.
Armed with a packet of posh M&S chocolate eggs, I descended on the arena at half past five for early doors. (I'd even booked a half day from work and everything - Let the Cazza B see the R&B!!!).
It didn't take me long to seek out some like-minded R&B fans. I instantly bonded with the couple next to me over our shared love of Jay-Z. We spent the majority of the night beaming at one another in delight and yelling, "TUNE!" at the start of pretty much every single song.
Fatman Scoop was the perfect host for the evening. With his wicked sense of humour and distinct voice, he really got the party started! It’s no exaggeration when I state that I was literally up on my feet dancing for four solid hours. I woke up this morning with burning thighs that feel as though I have done a million squats!
Together with Fatman Scoop, DJ Patrick Nazemi hurled out track after track in-between acts. We had everything from Biggie to Dre, Missy Elliot to Daddy Yankee, and Wayne Wonder to The Fugees.
The crowd chanted Scoop’s name over and over until he gave in to our panders and launched into the hugely anticipated Be Faithful. I’m not going to lie; I think I may have dislocated both kneecaps in my excitement. I think I need to accept that slut-drops certainly don’t get any easier in your mid-to-late-20’s...
Garage, hip-hop, R&B... The Blast Off Tour granted us a veritable mix of it all last night.
DJ Luck & MC Neat kicked things off with a step back in time to the good old Master Blaster days. Still sounding as fresh as ever, the duo also left the arena awash with nostalgia with A Little Bit Of Luck, which is arguably one of the best garage tracks to come out of the 00’s.
Sweet Female Attitude were next to perform, brining a certain sweetness to the set with I’ll Bring You Flowers.
I am pleased to report that Romeo Dunn has aged like fine wine. Accompanied by Harvey and Lisa Mafia, he treated the crowd to a number of So Solid Crew classics, including the legendary 21 Seconds.
I nearly wept when he said, “Two multiplied by 10 plus one... Romeo done.”
And yes, Romeo did perform Romeo, and no I am not ashamed to admit that I did nearly cry again.
How long do you get for bigamy? Asking for a friend...
Blu Cantrell was every inch the diva as she exploded onto the stage with her power-house voice. She belted out Hit Em Up Style, and instantly made every single woman in the audience feel empowered.
Breathe by Blu and Sean Paul is still up there as one of my favourite songs of all time, and hearing it live gave me goosebumps. It didn’t even matter that she was without the aid of Sean – Blu absolutely killed it on her own!
Upon the introduction of each individual artist, old school music videos played in the background, showing them in their younger days. Mya literally looks no different!
If I look as good at Mya at 40, I’ll be very happy. In fact, if I looked as good as Mya now I’d be bloody buzzing! That woman is stunning, with an insane voice to match!
She treated the audience to a solo version of Ghetto Superstar, which was flawless and perfection defined.
I felt I rivalled Mya’s dancing when she executed My Love is Like... Woah. Not like I dance to this song every single morning while getting ready for work or anything...! (I deffo do - still one of my faves!). There I was, totally in a world of my own, gyrating up and down the stairs of the arena, genuinely believing I was one of Mya’s backing dancers...
Who’s That Girl?
Eve’s that girl, and she was pure fireeeee!
Oozing endless sass and a fiery assurance, Eve ploughed through hit after hit. We were reminded just how many incredible collaborations she has been a part of... Gwen Stefani’s Rich Girl and Blow Ya Mind, and of course the epic Moulin Rouge to name but a few!
Side note: Eve’s Tambourine must be up there with THE best songs to just go CRAY to.
Salt n Pepa brought boundless energy to the stage, with their legendary hit Push It whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Wearing matching red shell suits, chunky gold chains and hooped earrings, they brought 90’s style back with a bang!
Looking as gorgeous as ever, the girls thanked the crowd for supporting their music for 35 years. 35! They still don’t look old enough to have been in the industry for that long!
“Don’t ever let ANYBODY tell you that you can’t do something in life,” Pepa said. “Women – don’t let anybody tell you who you can and can’t be with, or what you can and can’t do with your body.”
I was like, yas gal you speak to my soul!
DJ Patrick Nazemi heightened our excitement for Shaggy by blessing us with a mash up of reggae hits from the likes of Sean Paul, Beanie Man and Mr. Vegas.
Shaggy made a dramatic entrance on stage, appearing in a singular spotlight as the opening chords of Mr Boombastic kicked in.
“I didn’t come to England for da food... I didn’t come to England for da weather... I come to England for DA WOMEN!!” Shaggy proclaimed, before launching into a rendition of Hey Sexy Lady.
I think it pretty much does without saying that It Wasn’t Me was brilliant live, topped by some Shaggy wisdom: “Women find out everyTING. This is because men are STUPID, and women are SMART!”
Amen to that, Shaggy.
Nelly, complete with his signature grills stormed the stage, minus his obligatory plaster.
Every single woman in the audience went wild. (But not me. I’m a one-man kinda woman. And by one man, I mean Romeo Dunn, not my actual husband).
Sounding as fresh as he did in the early 00’s, Nelly perfectly rounded the night off with Country Grammar and Ride Wit Me.
“AYYY, MUST BE THE MON-AYYY!” The crowd chorused, infused by delight.
Fatman Scoop earned the respect of Mancunian’s everywhere when he paid a beautiful tribute to our city.
We were encouraged to turn our phone torches on and hold them in the air, creating a beautiful panoramic shower of light.
Scoop praised the soul of Mancunians,’ and commended our bravery at bouncing back from the horrific terror attacks that broke the heart of our city nearly three years ago.
I mean, I never thought I’d hear Oasis’s Wonderwall mixed with Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise, but there you are...!
Last night, I was reminded of the power of music.
There's something totally beautiful and somewhat spinetingling about thousands of people all under one roof for the same reason, sharing the same passion. The whole arena felt ignited by unity.
I almost felt as though I could reach out and touch the memories attached to the songs. It was as if I could step right back in time to those seemingly never ending summers and the songs that shaped those carefree times.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©
Originally posted in March 2020