Yesterday may have been Father’s Day, but EW’s social media all-star Nika Vagner and I were the ones who received the greatest gift of all – a triple bill of boy-band hotness, courtesy of New Kids on the Block’s cheekily named The Package Tour, featuring 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men.
For starters, bands who have been in the biz for more than two decades take the stage promptly. The strains of “On Bended Knee” began to swell right at 7:30 p.m., signaling the beginning of a night of nostalgia-fueled ecstasy. As was only right for a group who sold millions singing babymaker jams, Boyz II Men put on a mostly laid-back set, with chart-toppers including “Water Runs Dry” and ”End of the Road,” an elegant a capella take on “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” (they’ve still got it!), and of course “I’ll Make Love to You.”
The last was accompanied by the passing out of roses, and though I was fortunately some distance from the fracas, I suspect blood was drawn by more than thorns alone. The group ended their set with an energetic performance of their breakout 1991 hit “Motownphilly” that included some serious Running Man action; when they sang of “Kickin’ it just for you,” oh yes, they were indeed kickin’ – and high.
98 Degrees stepped onto the stage next, accompanied by their name-checking song “Heat It Up” and some classic 1997 boy band moves (forceful reach out, jazz hand down!). Full disclosure: I was always more of a Jeff Timmons girl than a Nick Lachey fan, but the elder Lachey brother was in excellent voice and really turning on the charm offensive last night. The quartet played everything from their first single, “Invisible Man,” to tracks from their new album 2.0. Naturally, overshirts were removed halfway into the eight-song set – all the better to show off the matching tattoos. A particular highlight: The guys brought four very special ladies up to the central platform for a round-robin serenade of “I Do (Cherish You),” which they dedicated to “all the sexy married ladies.” These
boys men know their audience.
But I shan’t delay any further. As a child of the ’80s, the night was all about NKOTB. Before the music revved up, the disembodied voice of Donnie Wahlberg asked the 18,000-plus attendees at the Barclays Center to join him in making a pledge that ended with, “I deserve this night. I earned this night. And together, we own this night.” It was a pretty elaborate lead-in to “We Own Tonight,” the lead track from NKOTB’s current album 10, but it was also an effective way to get the ladies a-screamin’ (and I do say “ladies” because I personally spotted about 15 men total last night).
The New Kids’ supersized, 19-track set was the most high-energy and the splashiest of the three acts. There were confetti and streamer cannons! Used multiple times! (Not to mention lasers, giant balloons, hydraulic platforms, and a rotating stage.) You didn’t have to be a 13-year-old to get into the spirit of the proceedings – though you might giggle like one when Joey, Jordan, Jon, Donnie, and Danny did their signature crotch thrusts. And, yes, there were a lot of crotch thrusts – and zero complaints.
All the greatest hits were present along tracks from 10 and their 2008 album, The Block. Naturally, Joey and Jordan got a lot of solo time (including a Joey’s signature ballad “Please Don’t Go Girl,” during which he stood atop an elevated platform, dropped to his knees, and ignited a teen-idol-worthy slew of shrieks from the house), but all the Kids got in on the action – a demonstration of the group’s evolution into a true ensemble through the years. Even Jon, who has openly struggled with anxiety, had a few solos; his general confidence last night was met with loud cheers, testifying to fans’ 25-years-strong support for these guys.
If you were looking for lust, though, you one needed look no farther than the glistening chest of Donnie Whalberg, gyrated to oldies like “Cover Girl” and newbies like “Remix (I Like The).” Always the flirt of the group, Donnie obviously taught baby brother Mark his swagger back in the day, and last night’s response to his still-not-old tricks showed that he was surely responsible for the sexual awakening of many a lady in attendance.
As the show wound down, one of the night’s biggest highlights came as Joey brought out his son Griffin in celebration of Father’s Day. He asked, the 5-year-old, “Do you have a question?” And Griffin responded in song: “Remember when we said, ‘Girl, please don’t go’?” – the first lines of the New Kids’ 1990 hit “Tonight.” Li’l Mac then joined his dad and uncles in some choreography. Girls of 2026, watch yo’selves!
We collectively picked our ovaries off the floor in time for a jump-around to Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” It was one of many musical homages they rolled out during the two-hour act, including a mixed-bag mini-set covering the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There,” George Michael’s “Faith,” and even “Hot in Herre” by Nelly.
As Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees had done, NKOTB paid special homage to Brooklyn, recalling that the last time they’d performed in the borough was in Coney Island to record the video for “Please Don’t Go Girl.” Later, Donnie told the crowd that he remembered “riding down from Beantown to New York, all crammed into one car – when girls in New York started chasing after that car in New York, we knew we’d made it.” Cue the singalong to Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” maestro!
The night ended with the title track from the group’s 1988 breakout album Hangin’ Tough. Arms in mid-wave, I could practically taste the cherry Lip Smackers. As I boarded the train home, I took a picture for two thirtysomethings who were giddy from the show. “We’ve been to probably 20 New Kids shows,” one told me, “but this is the first one we’ve seen together.”
And that was the magic of the night: It’s safe to say the majority of last night’s concertgoers are swiftly moving toward an age where they won’t encounter many more firsts. Groups like NKOTB, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men keep those firsts flooding back – a gift that diehard fans will take in any Package.
The Package Tour continues through Aug. 4.
New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees, and Boyz II Men touring together this summer: ‘Ladies, we’re coming for you’
10 Summer Music Musts
Guilty Pleasures for Summer 2013
On the scene: NKOTB take it step by step at Andy Cohen’s ‘Watch What Happens Live’