Review: “Weak” for the ’90s: SWV

Review: “Weak” for the '90s: SWV

The Grammy nominated R&B group electrified the crowd Friday at Coming Back Together concert.
Published: September 12, 2021
Sisters With Voices perform at
SWV, which stands for "Sisters With Voices," perform at the Coming Back Together concert Friday night in the Goldstein Auditorium.

Quarantine took away many things. Movie theaters, restaurants and concerts. For music lovers, hearts shattered with every ticket refund and cancellation throughout the past year and a half. This is an unusual and cautious time for live events, but Syracuse University continues with all regularly scheduled programming, albeit shrouded in a mask requirement as neverending variants loom.

Coming Back Together, a reunion event for Black and Latinx SU alumni put on by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, brought in R&B vocal trio SWV, an acronym for “Sisters With Voices.” Comprised of Cheryl (Coko) Gamble, Tamara (Taj) Johnson and Leanne (Lelee) Lyons, this group of golden voices layered in rich harmonies began in 1992. They achieved immediate success in the subsequent years with chart-topping hits. As they rattled the Goldstein Auditorium with their presence, these musicians left the crowd reeling with joyful nostalgia.

SU alum and musical artist Malcolm-Ali Davis, who graduated in 2018 with an  information management and technology degree, opened the concert. Donning a white shirt emblazoned with his name, the performer made the stage his own as he belted out original songs “The Last Time” and “R.I.P” as well as covers of ’90s hits “Can We Talk” by Tevin Campbell and “This Is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan and Wino.

Syracuse Alumni Malcolm Ali sings during the opening show for the
A fan captures SU alum Malcolm Ali who opened for SWV at Friday's Coming Back Together concert.

SWV then took the stage. In a tight set of less than 45 minutes, these true professionals gave the electrifyingly fashionable crowd every ounce of comforting ’90s nostalgia they sought, infused with irrefutable energy. Starting the performance, SWV threw themselves into their hit “Anything.” Simple but precise choreography accompanied the song. Coko, Taj and Lelee stunned in coordinating outfits consisting of sparkly peplum jackets and tight black pants. A remixed version of their 1996 hit “You’re The One” jolted the crowd, most notably the evening’s two DJs, DJ Strikah and DJ Shy Guy, who cavorted back and forth in their booth. Even concert opener Davis couldn’t resist joining the crowd as SWV performed.

Sisters With Voices perform at
SWV perform Friday at the Coming Back Together concert in the Goldstein Auditorium.

This award-winning girl group then serenaded with “You’re Always On My Mind” and “Use Your Heart” before floating into “Right Here-Human Nature Remix.” The warmth of Michael Jackson’s guitar flecked groove from Thriller is nothing less than iconic, and threw another blanket of nostalgia over the crowd.

“Rain” was up next, complete with stormy sound effects. In between each tune, SWV joked and riffed with the crowd, thanking everyone for being there and “having fun no matter what.” SWV’s powerful, clear vocals and effortless magnetism left no doubt these women are still masters of their craft. Lelee asked, “anybody in love tonight?” and the crowd roared in response. SWV ended the set with one of their most popular hits, the smooth as silk, “Weak.”

SWV was the star of a night of truly coming back together. On this chilly September evening, the crowd flicked off their troubles and reveled in community. The possibility of another quarantine lurks in the shadows, so for now, people celebrate life and nostalgia. With an uncertain future, humans seek a more comforting past. Why? Tell ‘em … well, you know.