Grammy-award winning hip-hop and rap stars T.I., Eve and Ashanti took the stage Aug. 15 at the Savannah Civic Center for the America's Heroes Celebration.
The concert, billed as a salute to the troops and a benefit concert for all branches of our local military community, began with a performance by local rapper Chris "Kidd Salt" Morton.
Kidd Salt won the coveted spot as the local act to open the show with a contest from event sponsors E93 FM. He performed his two songs "I Like That" and "Go Turkey."
The E93 crew kept the crowd upbeat and dancing while latecomers continued to slowly fill the empty seats at the Civic Center. Even though the event featured top headlining acts, ticket sales were reportedly low and most seats were filled by the military personnel who received free tickets from event sponsors.
Eve started the night off with what she called "her old stuff," and her performance brought the waiting crowd to its feet.
In an interview backstage before her 30-minute performance, the Grammy award-winning singer said she was "completely honored and happy" to be able to perform for the military benefit concert.
"They called and asked me to come and I said, 'Of course.' I just want to say thank you to our military.
"I know they hear that all the time, but it's true ... I'm happy they returned and they are home and I just want to say thank you."
Eve admitted she had never been to Savannah, but was charmed by the coastal city.
"It's beautiful ... Everyone is so sweet here," she said.
She also said she spent the afternoon on Broughton Street shopping at Fab'rik and Urban Outfitters and eating frozen yogurt.
Backstage at the concert, a handful of soldiers from Fort Stewart were on hand and waiting for a promised meet-and-greet with rapper T.I.
Casey Phillips, a logistics officer with 1st Brigade Combat Team at Fort Stewart, was at the concert to help make sure his soldiers got the most out of their experience with the rapper.
"I'm not a T.I. fanatic like some of these guys, so I'm here for them and if I get to meet T.I., then that's cool, but I'm more excited for my guys," Phillips said. "I'm here to ease them into the room and to get them talking to T.I. They are really excited."
While they continued waiting, Ashanti took the stage along with her two backup dancers.
She performed for almost an hour and dedicated her performance to the military and their families.
After the show, she took time to meet with several fans and pose for photos.
She said she had a special message to the military and her families.
"First and foremost, I want to thank them so much for laying their lives on the line for our country," she said.
"Sometimes you take a lot of things for granted - a lot of privileges we have - sometimes we don't acknowledge it like we should.
"I want to say thank you to all of the wives and all the fighters, all the husbands, all the children that are growing up differently. They should know we appreciate them.
"You know, I just really think it's important for us to keep up their morale, you know, because there are a lot of things going on around the world. Sometimes in the lives they live, things can become very depressing. I think it's really important for us as civilians to continue to support them and keep up their morale."
When asked if her role on "Army Wives" changed her perspective on Army families, she quickly said, "Absolutely."
"I know a little bit about it because my mom was an Army brat ... But being on the show gave me the perspective that the women back home don't really get credit because they are behind the scenes, but this show allows people to see the women who are holding down the fort at home, and that's just as important.
"I just want to say we had a great time. The crowd was super turned up and again, we just want to say thank you to the military for all they do for us, and I hope they had a great time."
Ashanti also mentioned she just returned from Kurdistan, where she performed for soldiers on their way to Afghanistan.
T.I. arrived for the concert, but he showed up much later than anticipated. The rapper was supposed to participate in a special meet-and-greet with selected military personnel at 9 p.m., but he didn't arrive at the Civic Center until almost 10 p.m.
According to Phillips, the meet-and-greet was cut short, and some of the soldiers didn't get to meet with the rap superstar.
"They told me to get the guys, but when we got backstage, they told us that no one else was allowed to meet with him," Phillips said. "But some of the guys got there in time and got to meet him."
While his plans to get his soldiers in to meet with T.I. fell short, he did get to meet Ashanti.
"It was great, but I realized after it was over that I forgot to get a picture," Phillips said.
T.I. did put on a crowd-pleasing performance that had everyone in the Civic Center on their feet dancing with hits like "Blurred Lines," "Whatever You Like," "Bring 'Em Out" and "Ball."
During his 30-minute performance, T.I. took a moment to say thank you to all the military families in the audience.
"I really appreciate all y'all do for us," he said.
All proceeds from the event will go to local military groups.