LIVE REVIEW: RNB Fridays Live – Brisbane Showgrounds

RNB Fridays Live has turned into Australia’s biggest annual celebration of RNB music. And with the rapid growing success of the attendance numbers, the lineup continues to get bigger and bigger every year.

2019 boasted RNB Fridays Live’s biggest lineup to date. With Janet Jackson, The Black Eyed Peas, 50 Cent, Jason Derulo, Brandy and Keri Hilson making up the majority of the festival bill, there was literally an artist for everyone’s acquired tastes whether it was nostalgic or a long time love. 

With the festival gates opening in the mid afternoon, the Brisbane crowd left work early to kickstart their weekend in style. With Keri Hilson taking to the stage with full confidence, she ignited into a set full of nostalgic RNB-pop vibes. Opening with ‘Knock You Down’ she didn’t waste time in giving the crowd exactly what they wanted. Diving into fan favourites like ‘Turnin Me On’ and ‘Lose Control’, she even gave them her Soulja Boy cover of ‘Turn my Swag On’. 

Wrapping up her brief set with ‘Pretty Girl Rock’ she left the crowd wanting more. Her set was full of energy and she lit up the stage with her sass and genuine humble nature. As she walked off stage her DJ announced that her forthcoming third studio album ‘Lost And Found’ was coming a lot sooner than everyone thinks… so stay tuned for more details. 

Taking a step back in time, SISQO was added for the novelty. ‘The Thong Song’ is one of those unforgettable RNB song’s that will always be around, so it was about time RNB Fridays Live brought him out for a show following Genuine, Blackstreet, Estelle, Mario and Kelis’ additions in previous years. 

The rest of his back catalogue is a little forgettable and he even tried to promote his new material he’s dropping, but the crowd really only cared for ‘The Thong Song’. And his live performance of that song was pure fire. With a well choreographed rendition he showed the audiences multiple different sides of him. 

After teasing a mystery act for the longest time possible, the promoters finally revealed that Brandy would be joining the line up. The anti-climatic announcement felt a little underwhelming with artists like JOJO, Ciara, Jay Sean, Nicole Scherzinger, Nelly Furtado, Flo Rida and Soulja Boy being some more relevant choices to the market that would’ve made a better surprise act.

But in saying that, Brandy still delivered a strong set of pure RNB. Crooning through her early material she kicked off her set with ‘I Thought’, ‘Baby’ and ‘Best Friend’ before rolling into ‘The Boy Is Mine’, ‘What About Us?’ and ‘Full Moon’. Performing in between SISQO and Jason Derulo was an interesting choice because her material is a lot slower to the others and fell a little flat in that regard. With some more upbeat material in her recent releases, she should have thrown in a few new songs to offer that sonical contrast.

Receiving the prime sunset slot, Jason Derulo pulled out all the stops in delivering one of the most talked about sets of the festival. Opening with ‘Whatcha Say’, the Florida singer-songwriter highlighted why he’s had such a successful career which is bordering on celebrating ten years. 

Finding the right balance of new songs like ‘Wiggle’, ‘Tip Toe’ and ‘Mamacita’ with old favourites ‘Ridin Solo’, ‘Marry Me’, ‘Don’t Wanna Go Home’ and ‘It Girl’, he honed the party vibes and delivered such a carefree atmosphere through his performance.

Joined by a troupe of dancers, he delivered a full set of high energy and choreographed numbers that reminded the audience why he’s had three successful arena tours of the country before. 

With a fresh remix of ‘In My Head’ and ‘The Other Side’, he wrapped up his set with a massive singalong of  some of his biggest hits; ’Trumpets’, ‘Swalla’, ‘Talk Dirty’ and ‘Want To Want Me’.

Following that energy was always going to be hard so RNB Fridays Live curated that well by offering something completely different. And that was 50 Cent. Bringing a diverse crowd to this years lineup, 50 Cent attracted a wider hip-hop crowd who may have not particularly wanted to come to a festival to see Janet Jackson and Jason Derulo. 

Celebrating his longevity as an artist, his setlist was just hit after hit and memories after memories. From the opening moments of ‘Patiently Waiting’ to ‘I Get Money’, ‘P.I.M.P’, ‘Candy Shop’, ‘AYO Technology’, ‘In Da Club’, ‘Window Shopper’ and ’21 Questions’, he perfectly catered to his long term fans. 

Joined by a full live band, a hype man and two giant inflatable champagne bottles, he moved his way across the stage and continually beamed at the crowd with the biggest smile on his face. 

His performance wasn’t for everyone and did fall flat in parts, but it did provide a smart contrast to the other variety of styles on the lineup. 

There was a lot of discussion before the tour if The Black Eyed Peas were still going to be the same live without Fergie, and after witnessing their set I can safely say that no one had anything to worry about.

The dynamic three-piece are born performers and they exploded on the stage joined by their live band with their early hits ‘Let’s Get It Started’, ‘Boom Boom Pow’ and ‘Pump It’.

Immediately getting the crowd on their side, they had everyone jumping, dancing and screaming along to their varied greatest hits. Throwing in their new single ‘Ritmo (Bad Boys For Life)’ into the set, they quickly returned to their hits like ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’, ‘Don’t Stop The Party’ and ‘The Time (Dirty Bit). 

Hailing from The Voice Phillipines fame, Jessica Reynoso joined The Black Eyed Peas on stage to sing vocals during Fergie’s parts and helped fill that missing female soul the band are now missing. 

Wrapping up their set with ‘Where Is The Love’ and ‘I Gotta Feeling’, they left the audience on a massive high. With confetti filling the sky the band said good night and everyone looked around at each other and were excitingly discussing about how energetic and fun their set was. 

Hitting up the official afterparty at Famous Nightclub later that night, Taboo and Apl De Ap performed an hour DJ set that saw them performing some songs live again as well as ‘Bebot’ and ‘Rock That Body’ which they didn’t play at RNB Fridays Live. 

There is a lot of controversy surrounding Janet Jackson’s headline set at this years RNB Fridays Live. Another publication wrongly reported a mass walkout due to her “horrendous” live performance and plagued lip synching, and that was completely false. 

Yes, a decent portion of the crowd did leave but that was before she even took to the stage and that was because they were too young to really appreciate her status as a headliner. For any true music lover or entertainer, Janet Jackson was a bucket list artist they had been waiting forever to see. But for anyone else, she just seemed like a bit of a confusing headliner. 

Along with her troupe of dancers, she delivered a set that took long-term fans for a trip down memory lane with tracks like ‘Control’, ‘Nasty’, ‘Together Again’, ‘All For You’, ‘Rhythm Nation’ and a cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Scream’. 

She is an icon in her own right, but as a headline of a festival like RNB Fridays Live, it just felt a little anti-climatic. They need a headliner who can continue to rise the energy and appeal to a bigger demographic. Maybe we should start a petition for Jennifer Lopez to headline in 2020? 

Check out the full gallery captured by Kelsey Doyle Photography BELOW;

Photos by Kelsey Doyle