ALBANY, New York As fans sang along with Destiny's Child during their performance of "Survivor" close to the end of their set at MTV's "TRL" tour kickoff here, the trio looked the same but different.
About eight hours earlier, at DC's dress rehearsal for the show at the Pepsi Arena, they had some kinks to work out. (Click for photos from the event.) "Now that you're out of my ... Hold up, hold up," Beyoncé Knowles said during a "Survivor" test run, wearing the same grass skirt she and her group would wear during the real show. Opting to focus on getting the choreography down pat, DC's frontwoman, who looked just as good as she does in the videos even without her hair and makeup done, stopped singing and just did the dances in the routine. Meanwhile, Michelle Williams had all her steps and lyrics together, though the same couldn't be said for her outfit, as her skirt kept falling off. Luckily, all the members of the multiplatinum group had jeans shorts on underneath.
"Where's the pyro?" Knowles asked minutes prior as they walked through "Jumpin' Jumpin'." "I thought we was going to have pyro." She wanted to make sure everything was right for the first show, especially since Destiny's Child, the tour's headlining act, were featured on the bill after hitmakers 3LW, Dream, Jessica Simpson, Eve and Nelly, who was accompanied by his crew, the St. Lunatics.
Although nobody on the tour wanted to be outdone, the competition level was friendly at least for the first show. "Its all good," Nelly said. "All the acts been doing they thing [previous to the tour] so it ain't like nobody's holding the other up. I definitely appreciate their music and they've been supportive of us. When we practice they coming out to see what we doing." Nelly said he's going to enjoy going out on the road with the predominately female lineup.
"You on tour for 48 dates, two-and-a-half months, with nothing but ladies, bad ladies at that," he explained with a smile. He said he had nothing against mixing business with pleasure and would be up to dating one of his tourmates.
"If it's on and poppin', then it's on and poppin'," he continued, still grinning.
Eve knew what Nelly was going through. Often when she tours, like on the Ruff Ryders/ Cash Money outing in 2000, she's the only female on the bill. "I like [this 'TRL' outing] because it's a girlie tour," said Eve, who, like Nelly, said she'll tone her show down slightly, acknowledging that she'll be performing in front of more children than usual. "I love my dogs, but it's good to be around girls and talk. Plus, I was cool with everybody before the tour." An hour before the 7 p.m. show time, game faces weren't exactly on, but everybody was going through their preparations backstage. Eve was lost in adoration as she held Nelly's puppy in her arms in front of the 'Tics' dressing room. Jessica Simpson and her entourage were joking as one of the girls she was with taped her on a home video camera. 3LW were singing a cappella further down the hall and some of the members of Dream were chatting it up on cell phones while their dancers stretched.
As the house lights went down, the girls in the audience there were about twice as many girls as guys went bananas at the sound of Carson Daly's voice. A snippet of "TRL" was played on huge screens above the stage. Then the tour's hostess, Beyoncé's little sister, Solange Knowles, welcomed everyone. An announcement was made that 3LW had escaped a juvenile correctional facility and had taken over the venue. The three little women (who are growing by the second) came out wearing orange jail jumpsuits, and went into a dance routine off of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Warning" that ended with the three girls bent over showing "3LW" on their three little butts. Before the show, the girls admitted to MTV News that they were a little nervous about being the opening act and setting the tone, but they obviously accomplished their mission to set the party off. Songs such as "Playas Gon' Play" and their finale, "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)," kept the crowd raucous and on its feet.
Dream received love during their set and the show was running smoothly until Jessica Simpson began her performance. Joining her dancers on stage, Simpson walked on then quickly scurried off. Her dancers didn't seem to know what happened and the fans could obviously see that something was wrong. The music stopped and there was a brief moment of unsettling silence.
A crew member came onstage and informed the audience that Simpson was experiencing "technical difficulties." The singer then came onstage and told the anxious crowd the real deal. Apparently baby had too much back.
"My pants just split in half and I'm wearing my mother's jeans," she said before starting her show over the cheers.
In the middle of her gig, Simpson and her dancers shook their booties to the sounds of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," and she told the audience that this was the fourth time in her career that she had pants rip onstage. Poking fun at herself, she promised to wear better pants next time she was in Albany.
Eve's stage set looked like the entrance to a fortress. Two gigantic golden scorpions stood tall on the far left and right with the Ruff Ryders logo in the middle. Two girls dressed like Egyptian belly dancers entered before the giant logo opened up to reveal Eve, who had on her own ancient-looking garb. She ripped off her coverings to show her shapely body in jeans and a sheer shirt. Songs such as "What Y'all Want," "Let Me Blow Ya Mind" and "Who's That Girl?" took the crowd to the next level of excitement as guys and girls waved their blue and green glowsticks in unison while some danced in the aisles and on top of their chairs.
It took Nelly's performance a while to kick off as each one of the St. Lunatics had a videotaped skit play for the crowd before their team captain came onstage on a four-wheel motorcycle with rims. "We goin' down down baby," everybody sang, before later chanting Nelly's now signature call, "UH OH!," as he closed with "E.I." Destiny's Child brought the drama as their performance started. Surrounded by fire, the trio rose like the Phoenix, being elevated from the floor onto the stage. Wearing all white, the ladies performed a Caribbean-tinged version of "Independent Women Part I," then took it back with their first hit, "No, No, No." "Bug A Boo," "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Say My Name" followed before each of the girls had their own soulful solos Kelly with "Story of Beauty," Michelle with her take on "Ooh Child" and Beyoncé with "Dangerously in Love." "This is our opening night, and I'm glad we opened here," Kelly told the crowd.
A gospel medley and a jelly shaking rendition of "Bootylicious" followed before they paid tribute to Tina Turner with a performance of "Proud Mary." "We'll be jumpin', jumpin', jumpin' down in Al-Bany," they sang, segueing into "Jumpin' Jumpin'." Then came "Survivor," where Beyoncé got those pyrotechnics she hoped for. Running just about an hour overtime, DC exited the stage exactly at midnight, but not before they closed dancing barefoot and surrounded by dozens of yellow balloons with drawn smiles on them with "Happy Face." Fitting, as the song matched the grills of the tired, yet still excited throng.