Concert Review: Destiny’s Child (Pepsi Arena, Albany, New York, July 18, 2001)

This package show was billed as “TRL Live” in the promotional materials, though we all knew going in that it was actually a Destiny’s Child concert with a big bag of mostly interchangeable opening acts. “TRL,” for those of you who have been living in pop-culture-proof boxes, stands for “Total Request Live,” which would be Generation Z’s version of “American Bandstand,” with hunk muffin Carson Daly playing the part of Dick Clark. When the TRL Tour kicked off last Wednesday night at our very own Pepsibocker Arena, however, Carson was nowhere to be seen, probably because he was too busy picking up the broken shards of his life following his breakup with the luminous, if husky-voiced, Tara Reid. And, y’know, it would be too hard for a big star like Carson to do new girlfriend auditions from Albany, wouldn’t it?

Yes it would. But that was okay, since canned Carson on the stage televisions elicited about as many screams as did anyone actually standing in Albany. Not that there was any shortage of screams during this long, long night of young-girl-friendly music, mind you, although it took a while for it to get going. Particularly during the first three sets, which collectively looked and sounded like karaoke night at a cosmetic surgery clinic, at the end of a day when the silicone and the collagen and the lycra tanks all exploded, and the Chippendale Dancers’ truck broke down in the back parking lot.

The gangsta-poppin’ trio 3LW ran around the stage over canned tracks first, followed by the four-piece B-Witched knockoff Dream, then by nubile balladeer Jessica Simpson, who experienced “technical difficulties” (or so her monitor tech said) two minutes into her performance when (gasp!) her pants split right up the middle! (emphasis hers) and she had to run offstage to purloin her mom’s blue jeans. But, no problem, it was easy to start the karaoke machine over at the beginning, and things went fine from there.

And then they got better than fine. Soulful, audacious MC Eve put on the evening’s best performance, painting the heretofore-sterile stage with attitude and charisma, proving herself the type of superstar who can fill an arena with her personality alone. She had a DJ onstage with her, though, bumping the beats up to the places they needed to be in such a big room, keeping the crowd moving they way they needed to be moved. Damn good. Likewise Nelly and the St. Lunatics, who brought enough testosterone and machismo with ’em to balance out the other five female acts, and then some. I had sympathetic pains in my sternum from all the chest thumping going on, ouch.

So, finally, some five hours after we sat down, Destiny’s Child took the stage. And they came up through a burning ring of fire, and they sang sang sang as the flames leapt higher, and they twirled, twirled, twirled, in the ring of fire. Which they then turned off as soon as they were done with “Independent Woman, Part I,” moving on to other things that went boom and flash as they sashayed through hits “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name” on heels so tall and pelvis-pushing that even Tina Turner would think twice before climbing onto them.

The pre-taped television spots that aired during the concert earnestly declared that Destiny’s Children were all made equal, each and every one, and that’s a nice PR position, but there’s no doubt that this was really a Beyonce Knowles and the Supremes type gig, as Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams took definite side, if not back, seats in the proceedings. Which worked okay, since Knowles has a hearty Chaka Khan sort of belt to her voice, which most of the squeaky post-Mariah Carey era singers (Williams and Rowland included) lack in a big sort of way.

Thing was, though, that by the time Destiny’s Child were really getting things going, most of the younger kids who were there to see them were groggy from over-stimulation and way-past-bedtime-itis. Most of ’em never even got to hear Destiny’s Child sing their latest hit, “Survivor,” since they were too little to survive a six-hour concert marathon. Which is kinda sad–an so here’s hoping TRL does a little better market research before sending its next show on the road. Assuming their marketing flacks are done picking Carson’s next girlfriend by then, I mean.

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