Tony! Toni! Toné! makes music that will stand the test of time. Last Thursday (Oct 19), the R&B supergroup played host to a phoneless crowd of fans at the Steven Tanger Center in Greensboro, North Carolina in support of their 2023 Just Me And You Tour. For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to sit through an entire concert without documenting my experience in real-time. No IG Story post; no bathroom selfies to show off my fit; just live music and memories.
As a Gen Z-er in the truest sense of the word, I had mixed feelings about being told to turn my phone on Airplane Mode before entering the venue. At first, I thought it was a cruel joke when the PR team informed me that phones are strictly prohibited, “it’s venue policy.” In fact, it really threw me for a loop when they suggested that I bring a pen and notepad to the show. I laughed at the idea. It felt like I was reliving my college days again. At the same time, it was a pleasant surprise to find out that I could bring a plus one to the show. I sided with family and extended the invitation to my sister, who’s four years older than me.
We’re not that far apart in age, but Tony! Toni! Toné!’s music means something totally different for the both of us. And I’m sure the same can be said for the hundreds of Black couples that were in attendance that night. But above all, there was enough nostalgia to go around, and everyone who came to see Raphael Saadiq, his brother D’Wayne Wiggins, and Timothy Christian Riley live in action got their money’s worth.
The show opened up on a high note with the exhilarating “House Party II (I Don’t Know What You Came To Do)” from the soundtrack to the film House Party 2. From there, the night transitioned into a full-fledged jam session as Saadiq led the 13-part live band. The Tonys set played out like your favorite auntie’s playlist at the family cookout. “Whatever You Want” brought the crowd to its feet, then, the slow burning “(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow” filled the room with love. It’s also important to note that Saadiq paid homage to late film director John Singleton during the performance. (Tony! Toni! Toné! recorded several songs for film soundtracks, including “Me and You” for Boyz ‘N’ The Hood.)
The turning point of the night came when Saadiq dug deep into his bag of hits and performed “Dance Tonight” from his Lucy Pearl days. The crowd did just that, swaying left and right as the song carried on. But when the concert closed out with “It Never Rains (In Southern California),” you would think it was choreographed how everyone joined in and belt out lyrics with joy.
It’s been nearly 25 years since the Tonys have shared the same stage and they’re still performing like rent is due. From fans singing along word-for-word, to the medley of classic R&B smashes that pierce through the center of funk lore, there’s something to be said about Tony! Toni! Toné!’s staying power. This wasn’t your average concert, it was a homecoming of the ages.