Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Before The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Panic! at the Disco, there was another Las Vegas group topping the charts: 702. The R&B trio of Meelah Williams, Irish Grinstead and LeMisha Fields released debut album “No Doubt” in October 1996 featuring urban radio hits “Steelo” and “Get It Together,” but is best known for the 1999 smash “Where My Girls At?” from the group’s eponymous follow-up record.
After almost 15 years since they were active as a group, the women of 702 have reunited for a summer tour. They’ll play Douglas Park in Chicago on August 18 followed by some soul festival dates in the fall, and last month they performed a homecoming show of sorts as part of the Throwback Sizzling Jam at the Orleans Arena on July 21.
“It was super surreal to be back in our hometown and see all our friends and family, and really just a blessing to be onstage in Vegas again,” says Fields.
Her sister and bandmate couldn’t agree more. “While I was onstage I found myself just grabbing my heart, looking at all these people who have loved us and cared about us all these years,” Grinstead says. “I had to take a deep breath. It was unbelievable to be here after just five or six shows back.”
Grinstead and Fields were born in Houston and moved to Las Vegas with the rest of their family when they were small children; they both still live here. Williams was born and raised Vegas but has been living in Atlanta for the better part of the last two decades. All three members agree the timing was right for a 702 reunion.
“I think it was beyond our control,” says Williams. “I’ve been approached and we’ve been approached [to reunite] over the years and of course the fans have been asking for years, so to have it all unfold recently has been a humbling blessing.”
She says the trio met up in Las Vegas two years ago for the first time in a long time and had a “big girls’ pow-wow.” They made a group public appearance at the Soul Train Awards last year — also at the Orleans Arena — and made plans for some shows.
“The singing part comes naturally for us,” says Fields. “We just get together and we can harmonize, there’s not a problem there. But as far as choreography and getting the stage show together, that was not a cakewalk.”
“Our vibe and our sisterhood are still there, the camaraderie of being good girlfriend and sisters,” Williams says. “We can pick up where we left off because we’re just genuine friends at this point in our lives.”
702 was one of the most popular and influential R&B groups of the 1990s when their genre was topping the pop charts. “Where My Girls At?” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was produced by hip-hop icon Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, who also worked with the girls on their debut album before Elliott launched her own solo career. The group’s third album “Star” featured the single “I Still Love You,” co-written and featuring Pharrell Williams.
With that era of music surging again, don’t be surprised to see 702 booking more shows in Las Vegas. It wouldn’t be shocking to see them participate in the upcoming “I Love The’ 90s: The Vegas Show” musical residency planned for the Paris Theater starting in October.
“For a while the ’90s era got lost in the shuffle sonically of what’s popular today. Thankfully there’s been these waves of groups reuniting, so I guess we’re considered a throwback,” Williams says.
“It all happened so fast, right now we’re just trying to get some more rehearsals in and focus on doing these shows,” Grinstead says, noting that all three members are mothers as well. She says 702 is grateful to have the chance to perform together again, especially in the city they’ve seen change so much through the years. “I remember back in the day when it was really just desert, and it was all about a few streets like Lake Mead and Cheyenne and now we have the 215. It’s awesome to see it grow this much, even though sometimes I wish it was small again. I love being here and it always feels like home.”