Now in its sixth edition and previously titled RnB Fridays, Fridayz Live is an Australian national music festival that turns the nostalgia fuelled trip dial up to eleven, providing fans with a selection of the greatest hip-hop and R&B acts of all time.
For 2023, the Melbourne leg was hosted by Fatman Scoop and consisted of artists; Jason Derulo, Flo Rida, Boyz II Men, Naughty by Nature, Kelly Rowland, 112, JoJo, and Travie McCoy, along with DJ sets from Yo! Mafia and Havana Brown.
Performed on an actual Friday in Melbourne at Rod Laver Arena, the marathon event began from 4:30pm and ended just a little after 11pm. In my first experience at the renown festival, I arrived just after doors opened and found myself in view of a big screen with an animated sleeping smiley face.
Naturally, I felt attacked but it wasn’t long before the show kicked into gear with Yo! Mafia spinning the finest of old school with visuals of the song up on the big screens. One of my favourite moments of Yo! Mafia’s set was when she played DMX’s ‘Party Up (Up In Here)’ that was accompanied by a clip of animated superhero character He-Man hilariously rap along to the song. Throughout Yo! Mafia’s several sets, all the song selections were superb, had their own fun videos, and Yo! Mafia had the biggest beaming smile on her face, enjoying every moment she was on the stage.
How the event worked was in between sets, the DJ was positioned on the left-side of the stage to play tunes while the rest of the stage was set up by crew and tech for the following act. I found this clever as this meant the music kept going, the energy in the room stayed, and nothing was disrupted.
Stage presence wise, Fatman Scoop is undeniably the ultimate hype man. The big man is irresistibly likable, excitedly loud, surprisingly polite, and his charisma is off the charts. It’s no surprise that the great man has been hosting this event for several years now.
Not just a hype MC, Fatman Scoop also got the opportunity to shine musically during Naughty by Nature’s two-part 50 years of Hip-Hop Countdown, as one of Fatman Scoop’s songs was luckily on the list. This made for the most fun and energetic performance of his American hip-hop duo Crooklyn Clan produced song, ‘Be Faithful’. The 2023 Fridayz Live edition had none other than Treach, Vin Rock, and DJ Kay Gee from Naughty by Nature performing the hip-hop anthem with Fatman Scoop live on stage.
While Naughty by Nature were extremely energetic and interactive with the Melbourne audience, my only criticism was during the hip-hop countdown, their DJ they cut off Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’ right before the “Hey yo, hey yo, hey yo” moment which was a little disappointing. But this is a minor thing.
The first main act of the night, Gym Class Heroes’ Travie McCoy was a delight from start to finish, dishing out his hits including his collab tune with Bruno Mars ‘Billionaire’, ‘Stereo Hearts’ that Gym Class Heroes did with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, and ‘Cupid’s Chokehold’ featuring Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, made for a catchy if not all too brief setlist.
Commenting that he last performed at the Rod Laver Arena venue in 2007 with Gwen Stefani, Travie McCoy shared that it was the first time he’s returned since, humbly chuffed just to be in the room and on the bill with so many other talented artists. Considering McCoy’s talents, I’m surprised his setlist only consisted of three songs. Although, I am hoping maybe Travie McCoy will bring Gym Class Heroes down for their own headline tour to Australia soon. When he wasn’t on stage, McCoy could be seen vibing in the photography pit to his fellow performers sets, just as excited as we were. He also took the time to personally greet and take selfies with the dedicated fans that were front row of the barrier.
In her first visit to Australia, the now blonde bombshell JoJo, took to the stage in a white top and red sparkly pants, complete with a matching pair of red sunnies. JoJo was super excited to be performing in Australia for the very first time in Melbourne and her performance did not disappoint. With killer booming vocals and a jaw-dropping stage presence, along with excellent dance moves, JoJo had the crowd eating out of the palm of her hand. Recently on Broadway playing Satine in Moulin Rouge, I can only imagine how great she would have been in the role with how fantastic her set was. Stand songs were ‘Say Love’, ‘Too Little, Too Late’, and the iconic ‘Leave (Get Out)’ which inspired fans to conjure and create a sea of phones, recording the anthemic tune.
112’s Slim and Mike, accompanied by DJ Stormy, had the entire venue standing and vibing to their songs, starting their set off with hit ‘Dance with Me’. ‘Peaches and Cream’ was also played but the highlight of their set was ‘I’ll Be Missing You’, their collaborative song with P. Diddy/Puff Daddy/Sean Combs and Faith Evans. This song had patrons turn their phone lights on to creative a beautiful artificial starry sky within Rod Laver Arena and made for a beautiful moving moment. Slim and Mike’s vocals did not disappoint, while DJ Stormy was also vocal in helping the audiences get excited and get into the party atmosphere.
Up next was Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland. I was a huge fan of Destiny’s Child as a kid but never had the opportunity to see them live, so I was excited to see my favourite Destiny’s Child member live for the first time. Taking to the stage with several dances, all donned in matching denim attire, all the hits were there including Nelly collaboration ‘Dilemma’, David Guetta collab dance track ‘When Love Takes Over’, and Destiny’s Child numbers including ‘Say My Name’, ‘Independent Women’, ‘Bootylicious’, and ‘Jumpin’, Jumpin’’.
Although none of the songs were played in full given her limited festival timeframe, Rowland did her best to please all the fans with her decorated catalogue. Her excellent vocals and commanding stage presence thoroughly impressed to the point where I didn’t want her to leave the stage when her time was up. I would have liked it if she performed for longer, had the time to provide songs in full, and had her solo hit ‘Work’ which was surprisingly not on her setlist.
The highlight of the night would have to be Boyz II Men who followed. Dressed in matching white attire, Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman, and Wanyá Morris each displayed their phenomenal vocals which sounded even more amazing when they harmonised together. It was like chocolate for the airwaves, it was that good. I also loved how humble and genuinely grateful they were, and their professionalism and gratitude showed every time they bowed in unison after finishing a song number.
The phone lights in the venue once again produced a sea of artificial stars and swayed to the music while the entire venue sang along to every Boyz II Men song including, ‘Down on Bended Knee’, ‘I’ll Make Love To You’ which they proceeded to throw roses into the crowd, live rarity and Mariah Carey collaborative chart-topper ‘One Sweet Day’ which had everyone emotional, and the iconic audible goodness of ‘End of the Road’. The Rod Laver Arena venue transformed from party vibes into one great sing-along, evidence Boyz II Men’s music continues to be relevant, has stood the test of time, and is just as wonderful and beautiful as the first time we initially listened to them. I actually would love to see Boyz II Men at their own headlining show and hope they return to do one in Australia sooner than later.
The vibes changed when Flo Rida entered the room bringing along a bunch of hot female dancers and his extended party family to the stage including International Nephew, Oya Baby, and Varie. Flo Rida had a very interactive set, performing T-Pain collab ‘Low’ with a bunch of female patrons that were picked from the crowd given the opportunity to work the stage with their best dance moves. ‘GDFR (It’s going down for real)’ was also performed with fans, this time with bunch of male patrons that were plucked from the audience and were given mics to sing-along to the chorus.
But when Flo Rida wasn’t partying it up with lucky fans, he was happily jumping around on the stage, clearly ecstatic to be performing in Australia again. Whether he be popping and spraying champagne onto the audience or doing a lap of Rod Laver Arena by riding on the shoulders of his security guard Big Zacc, Flo Rida knew how to expertly entertain his audience with all his power. My only criticism was that his set was abruptly cut off and made for an awkward ending, possibly due to the domino effect of acts going overtime. This was extremely unfortunate as Flo Rida’s set was arguably the most entertaining of the night.
After, Havana Brown provided a DJ set with a guest appearance from Conrad Sewell, performing together a cover of Kygo’s ‘Firestone’. Brown looked amazing in her purple get-up and long hair, smiling from ear to ear the entirety of her set. I just found it a bit puzzling that the spotlight had trouble finding her when she mostly remained in the one place and only moved to stand on her DJ table.
Finally, when Jason Derulo took to the stage, audience energy levels were at a high. With his band on different levelled platforms, and an abundance of dancers including the famous Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, professionally known as Les Twins in his crew, Jason Derulo’s long set included songs including ‘In My Head’, ‘Trumpets’, the Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $sign collaborative hit ‘Swalla’, Megan Trainor collab track ‘Hands On Me’ which samples Ben E. King’s ‘Stand By Me’, and ‘Want To Want Me’.
With the number of tracks Derulo had the opportunity to perform, he had even more jackets and coats that he switched between several song numbers. I actually lost count with how many he had. Derulo’s falsetto is not one to be messed with, his dancing impressing just as much as his various attire and songs. Derulo mentioned that fans can look forward to his world tour soon, however with what he already performed, one would be feeling quite satisfied from his set at Fridayz Live already.
Overall, Fridayz Live, proudly presented by Hit Network’s RNB Fridays (Australia), ZM & Flava (New Zealand), Frontier Touring, and powered by Macca’s, provided patrons with a fun and successfully fulfilling long night full of nostalgia and joy. Whether you were reunited with artists you’ve loved for years or were seeing them for the first time (after still loving them for years), this event exceeded my expectations and it was honestly incredible watching Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena come to life in ways I’ve never seen before. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to attend Fridayz Live. The hype is real, well worth the admission, and I am already excited for next year’s event.
Fridayz Live was performed in Melbourne at Rod Laver Arena on Friday the 10th of November. It will visit Perth next, then Adelaide, will fly over to Auckland in New Zealand after, then head back to Australia for its Brisbane and Sydney shows.
For more information and ticketing on Fridayz Live, visit:
Photography by Michael Nguyen.