Live Review: SWV bring 90’s R&B nostalgia to Australia for 25th Anniversary

A few years ago, no R&B fan would have expected a comeback so strong from SWV, but thanks to a hugely popular reality TV series and two strong albums – I Missed Us and Still – one of the best selling groups of the 90’s was welcomed back into the modern era with open arms. And why wouldn’t they be? Tracks like “Weak” and “I’m So Into You” still hold up as some of the very best R&B songs of all time and it’s clear that all three vocalists – all distinctive from one another, and all valuable to the group – haven’t lost their step; their newer material may not hold up as strongly against their older cuts, but as far as comebacks go this is one of the better examples.

That was furthered by the group’s very recent debut tour of Australia, finally delivering on a slice of fan service 90’s R&B lovers have been craving for over two decades. Yep, this was a 25th anniversary tour – which could just as easily have disappointed, given how legacy R&B tours have gone in the past – and a special love letter to fans down under, complemented by the addition of Allure as support act.

Allure may not have the same volume of hits under their collective belt as Sisters With Voices but the trio of Alia Davis, Lalisha Sanders, and Akissa Mendez still have some mighty powerful pipes with which to power through a small but satisfying set. That was the case at Melbourne’s Trak Lounge, watching these R&B veterans give it their all for an excellent but flawed performance.

Allure have never quite had the kind of strong songwriting enjoyed by more successful groups like SWV, TLC, Destiny’s Child and even Total. Although the dynamic between them and their presence as they deliver each song is undeniable, with the exception of the timeless “All Cried Out” the girls have struggled to find many songs that really broke through the deluge of R&B that defined the charts in the 90’s. That much was obvious as they delivered their cuts with an infectious energy but none really stood out – not even mild hit “Enjoy Yourself” or both versions of “Head Over Heels” – save for the aforementioned ballad, the stunning set closer that deserved every bit of adoration from the growing crowd.

Your typical DJ playing your typical “old-school” R&B swung between sets while the obligatory meet-and-greet with SWV went down before the girls hit the stage, and while the wait was tedious it was more than worth it once Coko, Taj and Lelee came out swinging, hitting hard with smash after smash starting with Missy Elliot collaboration “Can We” and classic “I’m So Into You” and not stopping for anything but a charming little interlude whereby the girls asked the crowd for any birthdays in the house [it was my birthday, I didn’t raise my hand – shy as hell], getting two fans on stage and singing “Happy Birthday” in the tune of “I’m So Into You”.

Though there was no live band to back them up, the mixes were tweaked for a live setting with enhanced instrumentation and little modern twists like the beat for “I’m So Into You” borrowing elements of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” or “Human Nature” mixed in with “Grindin” by Clipse. The sound mix itself was very muddied at times but all three voices on stage constantly made up for any slips, joyfully singing through classics like “You’re The One” and “Downtown”, leading a huge sing-a-long with “Weak”, and even delivering an excellent cover of Mavis Staple’s “I’ll Take You There”: a surprise tacked onto the end of “It’s All About U”.

Set List

Can We
I’m So Into You
Right Here (Human Nature Remix)
You’re The One/You’re The One (Remix)
Ain’t No Man
M.C.E
Use Your Heart
Rain
Happy Birthday (I’m So Into You Melody)
Downtown
It’s All About U/I’ll Take You There (Mavis Staple Cover)
Co-Sign
Weak
Anything

The reviewer attended this event on February 2nd.