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The sounds of 90s nostalgia

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Salt-N-Pepa perform during the "I Love the '90s" tour at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Salt-N-Pepa perform during the "I Love the '90s" tour at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. (edge photo by Kevin Bennett)

On experiencing the 'I Love the 90s' tour

BANGOR Full disclosure: I don't really care about music.

For whatever reason, music has never been as important to me as it has been to so many of my friends and acquaintances. That resonance, that deep-down love of music it just isn't there.

But nostalgia is a powerful thing. So powerful, in fact, that I found myself actually getting actively excited for a concert. When word came out that the 'I Love the 90s' tour, featuring a number of musical artists whose stars shone brightest in that last decade of the 20th century, I experienced a feeling that I hadn't known in a very long time with regards to a music show.

I really REALLY wanted to go.

And so it was that on October 28, I along with several thousand others was in attendance at the Cross Insurance Center to spend three-plus hours in a musical time machine. Back to awkward school dances and disaffected flannel-wearing and those first tentative steps into adulthood it was a weird and wonderful experience.

Did I see Young MC rap his way through 'Bust a Move'? I most certainly did. He was definitely a high-energy pick to kick off the proceedings, though I couldn't resist the odd snarky thought that maybe he should just be called 'MC' these days.

Did I get to enjoy not one, but two different overly-earnest harmony-driven boy bands? Yep Color Me Badd and All-4-One were both very much in the building. Those two groups gave me a couple of shocks. I was stunned to realize just how many of their songs I not only knew, but remembered all the words to - one particularly embarrassing memory involved my early high school belief that being able to sing along to Color Me Badd's 'I Adore Mi Amor' would somehow get a girl to like me. Also, All-4-One busted out a 90s song medley Boyz II Men's 'Motownphilly,' Montell Jordan's 'This is How We Do It' and 'Poison' by Bell Biv Devoe that was a surprise highlight of the evening.

I can't even express my feelings about seeing Rob Base perform. The 'It Takes Two' album is inextricably tied to some of my fondest memories from that era of my life. I may have grayed out at one point, if I'm honest. The only (blurry) pictures I took at any point of the evening were of this set.

Of course, it was no surprise that the place erupted when Salt-n-Pepa took the stage with DJ Spinderella. They were iconic figures in the music world; a majority of the people in the building doubtless grew up singing along to songs like 'Let's Talk About Sex' and 'What A Man' and God help me 'Shoop' (another one that I was delighted to discover I still knew almost word for word). Theirs was also the set that felt the most like a standalone concert even after 30 years together, they looked and sounded like they could carry a tour.

And then there was Vanilla Ice.

As someone whose go-to karaoke moves consist solely of 'Ice Ice Baby' and Neil Diamond's 'Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show,' I've long held a deep and abiding affection for Mr. Van Winkle's work. Suffice it to say that 'To The Extreme' got A LOT of play on my boom box back in the day. His was the most involved in terms of production values, with inexplicable inflatables and an extra DJ set-up and banners advertising his HGTV show.

Not only did Vanilla Ice tear it up, he also put a surprising degree of graciousness on display when Ton Loc whose appearance had allegedly been cancelled due to inclement weather delaying his flight actually showed up. Ice proceeded to hand over the middle part of his set, giving the crowd a chance to hear 'Funky Cold Medina' and 'Wild Thing.'

(Vanilla Ice also put himself in what appeared to be real danger by inviting scores of people up onto the stage to dance during the tail end of his set. He was standing on a speaker and definitely almost went off the front of the stage several times, thanks to the drunken enthusiasm of a young woman who repeatedly staggered a bit too close.)

It's odd to attend a show that is essentially a soundtrack to your memories, but it's no secret that the commodification of nostalgia has become big business. However, this didn't feel like a cash grab to me. I think what separated it was the sheer sense of gratitude all of these acts seemed genuinely touched by the outpouring of affection and grateful for the opportunity to keep doing something that they so obviously love.

So as you might have already guessed, I do indeed love the 90s. And when the new tour with all-new acts comes through town next spring, you can bet that I'll be right there to love them all over again.


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