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New Kids on the Block threw a heckuva party inside Staples Center on Friday night.
From Donnie Wahlberg‘s makeout session with one lucky audience member to Jordan Knight‘s repeated baring of his abs — not to mention plenty of pelvic thrusts and crotch grabs — NKOTB made every effort to show ticket buyers a good time as part of the “Package Tour,” which also features 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men.
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Certainly, NKOTB is one of those recording acts that has always gone overboard to show its fans how much they’re appreciated. “I do hereby pledge to spend the next two hours having the time of my life,” ordered an announcement to fans before the show began. Judging from the deafening screams inside Staples, the audience members — mostly females ranging from their early 20s to mid-40s — received that message loud and clear.
While NKOTB’s days of dominating mainstream radio might be over, it’s clear that the group members have only become better performers with age. It’s worth noting that all of the group’s five (original) members are now in their 40s, but in concert, they easily rival their 20-year-old counterparts. The show might have lacked the novelty of 2011’s NKOTBSB tour, featuring the supergroup formed by NKOTB and Backstreet Boys, but the New Kids still provided two hours of high-energy entertainment — and it truly looked like they were enjoying every minute. It’s a testament to their performing abilities — and their fan base — that they are still able to pack an arena like Staples 25 years after the release of their first hit single, “Please Don’t Go Girl.”
As has always been the case with NKOTB, Knight was the true star of the show. His falsettos on hits including “I’ll Be Loving (Forever)” sound unchanged from the late ’80s. Meanwhile, Joey McIntyre proved that maturity has only improved his solos on songs like “Please Don’t Go Girl.” And Wahlberg remains the consummate entertainer, singing, rapping and dancing with ease — and he also had a true moment in the spotlight during “Cover Girl.” (Danny Wood and Jonathan Knight, Jordan’s brother, round out the quintet.)
An especially sweet moment came courtesy of McIntyre, who brought out his 5-year-old son, Griffin, to sing a line from one of NKOTB’s songs. “A lot of things have happened” since the group first came to fame, he noted, adding: “It’s way past his bedtime.” Griffin stayed onstage with his dad for the group’s performance of “Tonight,” during which the New Kids scattered into the audience to shake fans’ hands.
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One highlight of NKOTB’s shows has always been the willingness to bring out some of the group’s classic choreography during performances of songs like “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” They didn’t disappoint on Friday night, once again incorporating the side-to-side, swinging-leg moves originally featured in the video for the 1988 single — much to the delight of the crowd.
But the night wasn’t only about their past hits; NKOTB also sung a few new tunes from their new album, 10, into their set, including “Remix (I Like The)” and “We Own Tonight.” They also paid tribute to some of their favorite songs in medleys that included George Michael‘s “Faith,” Prince‘s “Kiss” and the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” along with forgotten gems like “Tender Love” by the Force M.D.’s.
Referencing the group’s longevity, Wahlberg said: “Those so-called experts said we wouldn’t last three weeks. That was 25 years ago.” He then made a joke about how the love between the Boston-bred group and its Los Angeles fans is growing: “It’s time to consummate this relationship. … What I mean is, you’re like family. … You stole our basketball coach,” he quipped, referring to Doc Rivers, who left the Boston Celtics for the Los Angeles Clippers in June. The group also paid tribute to their Los Angeles fans by playing Tupac Shakur‘s “California Love,” sparking a dance party inside Staples, where the fans themselves sang along to the rapper’s ode to the City of Angels.
As is typical of NKOTB’s shows, it ended by donning Boston sports jerseys (one of at least five costume changes). This time around, they wore customized Red Sox jerseys with the “617” area code and the phrase “Boston Strong,” honoring victims of the Boston Marathon bombing in April, on the back while performing a mash-up of their own “Hangin’ Tough” with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to close out the show.
Preceding NKOTB was the reunited 98 Degrees, which released a new album, 2.0, earlier this year. Nick Lachey got the most audience screams of the group — which also includes his brother Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons and Justin Jeffre — and the most time in front of the microphone, as the quartet performed past hits including “I Do (Cherish You)” and “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche).” For those who might have forgotten, in light of Nick Lachey’s more recent status as a tabloid staple, the new dad knows how to belt out a tune.
Also included in 98 Degrees’ 40-minute set were a few new songs, including “Girls Night Out” and “Microphone.” But it was the performance of “My Everything” that had fans going crazy. Four “lovely ladies from the audience” were brought on stage to be serenaded — and nearly groped (not that they minded).
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Boyz II Men played a brief, but entertaining, set to kick off the show. Unlike NKOTB and 98 Degrees, Boyz II Men isn’t promoting a new album, but the group did launch a residency at Las Vegas’ Mirage Hotel and Casino in March. While the original quartet is now a trio — Wanya Morris, Nathan Morris (no relation) and Shawn Stockman remain after original member Michael McCary exited in 2003 related to health issues — their harmonies on songs, including “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” performed a capella, still sounded true to their original recording from 1991.
Singing only six songs, the R&B group’s half-hour set was heavy on the slower jams — starting out with “On Bended Knee” and including “Water Runs Dry” and “End of the Road” — before ending on an up-tempo note with their 1991 high-energy breakout hit, “Motownphilly.” And, keeping true to the night’s apparent theme of showing appreciation to the fans, the group threw roses into the crowd during their performance of “I’ll Make Love to You.”
Boyz II Men
On Bended Knee
Water Runs Dry
I’ll Make Love to You
It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday
End of the Road
Girls Night Out
The Hardest Thing
I Do (Cherish You)
Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)
Because of You
New Kids on the Block
We Own Tonight
You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)/Valentine Girl/If You Go Away/Please Don’t Go Girl (medley)
Remix (I Like The)
Baby, I Believe in You/I’ll Be There/Tender Love/Click Click Click /Faith/Kiss/Hot in Herre/Dirty Dancing
Step by Step
I Love It (Icona Pop cover)
California Love (Tupac cover)
I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)
Hangin’ Tough/We Will Rock You
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