Sean Combs — a.k.a. Diddy, a.k.a. Puffy, but this time out operating as Puff Daddy — had a goal for the TD Garden crowd on Saturday night, when the tour celebrating two-plus decades of his hip-hop brand Bad Boy came through. “I came to take us to that vibration, that feeling. . . [like] high school, when you could be free,” he said.
The nostalgia baked into the tracks he opened the show with helped, too. As Puff Daddy, Combs strung together a slew of pop-rap hits that flipped radio chestnuts into tableaus for his and his friends’ boasts, sounding bright in a way that recalls a sweltering summer day when time, space, and, yes, sound, melt into one another. Take his 1997 top-10 track “Been Around the World,” which Combs performed shortly before his proclamation: It samples the cavernous main riff of David Bowie’s early-’80s smash “Let’s Dance” and interpolates the chorus of Lisa Stansfield’s longing 1989 lament “All Around the World,” while broadsides against being “playa hated” add a bit of ’90s flair.
Saturday’s show honored the empire Combs has built over the last 20 years, but put the hits front and center. Faith Evans and Carl Thomas tore through showcases for their powerhouse voices, pairing up on the regret-filled “Can’t Believe.” Lil Kim’s foul-mouthed energy was slightly dampened by her letting the crowd take over on select verses. Vocal groups — once a mainstay of pop-R&B crossover — were represented by the all-male trio 112 and the all-female trio Total, with 112’s “Peaches & Cream” and Total’s “Trippin’ ” blending blippy beats with full-bodied harmonies in an utterly satisfying way. (Morocco-born French Montana and Combs’s son Christian — stage name: King Combs — represented Bad Boy’s future, to varying ends.)
Yet one act that tied the bill together almost as much as Combs wasn’t present. The late Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G., loomed large over the proceedings, with shirts bearing his image all over the merch stands and on attendees, his widow, Evans, announcing that she was putting together a collaborative album with him, and his booming drawl blasting out of the speakers on multiple tracks. His posthumous No. 1 “Mo Money Mo Problems” closed the show, too, with the night’s entire bill gathering onstage as the track’s flipped Diana Ross sample caused the crowd to sing along — one last trip to the past before 2016 made its presence felt.
Bad Boy Family Reunion
With Puff Daddy, Lil Kim, Mase, Faith Evans, 112, Total, Carl Thomas, the Lox, and French Montana. At TD Garden, SaturdayMaura Johnston can be reached at email@example.com.