MTV TRL Tour : Atlanta Philips Arena

Destiny's Child, Nelly and Eve perform for MTV's Total Request Live tour...

What is the face of MTV’s Total Request Live, the daily viewer-selected video countdown sharing its name with a summer tour? Is it the face of TRL pandering 30-somethingish host Carson Daly, who introduces the tour by video clip? Is it potential candidates for next year’s “Where Are They Now?” such as opening acts Dream and 3LW? Or is TRL’s face adolescent girls, screaming in the darkness of the far from sold-out Philips Arena for Eve, Nelly and headliners Destiny’s Child, crisscrossing the country with Jessica Simpson, the poor man’s Britney Spears, on select dates of the MTV-sponsored bill?

The TRL Tour is putting smiles on adolescent girls’ faces nationwide. But rapper Eve‘s set is probably putting frowns on faces of at least a couple of parents, because what they bleep on MTV they leave quite intact when “the Scorpion” stings live.

It’s all a warm-up, however, for when a St. Louis-inspired cityscape lights up the stage, announcing the arrival of Nelly. Well, at least announcing the far too long video intro of Nelly‘s crew, the St. Lunatics, whose album ‘Free City’ just went platinum. One by one the four-man St. Lunatics emerge on four-wheelers. But each time the crowd’s chanting “Nelly” grows louder until, after some bling-bling flashes on the screen screen the hot shit finally surfaces amidst fireworks to spread some ‘Country Grammar’.

Nelly and the St. Lunatics keep energy high, hyping hustla’s to “crush the game, don’t let the game crush you.” Hook-filled Midwest swing bounces the arena as the group tear tracks like ‘The

Jeffersons’-sampling ‘Batter Up’ and ‘Ride Wit Me’ throw out tons of fake St. Louis-themed $100 bills to shouts of, “Uh, oh, uh, oh, must be the money!,” and let the DJ scratch some of Missy Elliott‘s anthem ‘Get Ur Freak On’ and throw dem bows during the costume change.

After Nelly heads off, a white scrim goes up, and the crowd gets ready

for that jelly. Destiny’s Child has had multiple members, eight number one singles, sold 12 million albums, and yet this is their first tour. Standss to reason they’d pull out all the stops. Rising from a ring of fire in shining lame, Charlie’s little angels Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly lead a five-piece band, eight dancers, and the entire audience through the hoops. The crowd is ‘Jumpin’ Jumpin’ when they say “jump”. The crowd says their name when they say ‘Say My Name’. The group is tightest together, giving the crowd what they want: multiple costume changes and ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’, ‘Independent Woman, Pt. 1′, even a cover of the Bee Gees’ ‘Emotion’ and snippets of Michael Jackson‘s ‘Billy Jean’ and Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’.

Destiny’s Child‘s only misstep is an a cappella ode to Jesus. If Eve was kind enough to give a profanity warning, a Destiny’s Child should caution excessive preaching. But they end on a high note, first leading a ‘Survivor’ sing-a-long and closing with the sunny ‘Happy Face’ complete with a stage full of clapping audience members and a smiley balloon drop. The happy face of MTV’s TRL today is big, beaming and blissfully naive.

Tony Ware