Before the Total Package Tour headliners New Kids on the Block took over the stage for a two-hour choreographed collective pelvis thrust, a couple other things went down.
The first was a killer performance by Boys II Men.
Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris, and Shawn Stockman kicked that shit off right. The night of singalongs and fevered screams started with their hit, “Motownphilly,” reminding everyone where they’re from. The hooky line in that song, “ABC, BBD, the East Coast family,” gives a shout out to some of their peer pop ‘n’ soul acts that helped to define what’s known as the New Jack Swing sound: Another Bad Creation and Bell Biv Devoe.
It was a night for hits, and they played ‘em — “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” “One Sweet Day,” which they did originally with Mariah Carey, and “I’ll Make Love to You,” to name a few. On the latter, all three members passed out a ton of roses to the gimme-gimme hands grabbing to take home a piece of the action. “A Song for Mama” and “End of the Road” were a couple other favorites. As good as they sounded, their dance moves were on par. Their choreography wasn’t rigid — lightly in sync with a focus on individual flair. Wanya’s dance moves are so on point, they landed him on Dancing with the Stars. His glittery high-tops were a focal point.
Paula Abdul was up second in this glitzy trinity.
She was wheeled onto the stage by her dancers as she stood atop a desk in a bling-y gold lamé dress and busted into “Cold-hearted Snake.” Still perky as hell, she focused less on quantity, more on quality with a set short in songs that was stretched out with theatrical dance numbers and costume changes. Again, the dancing was so good.
Both Abdul and her team delivered to the point that she didn’t really need the constant graphic barrage.
It worked when she followed her talk about legendary dancer Gene Kelly, and how he influenced her, with “Opposites Attract,” where she performed along with her cartoon pal, Skat Cat. And I get that giant arenas have a lot of space to fill but, eh, there was plenty of action for the eyes to soak up. She, of course, did “Straight Up” and “Forever Your Girl,” and gave an inspirational talk, geared specifically toward the women in the crowd, about never giving up, sharing her own story about becoming a Laker Girl and how that shows you can be anything you wanna be.
So then, you know, that other thing happened next. Danny-Donnie-Joey-Jon-Jordan.
These all-grown-up poppy R&B babies from the ‘80s are seemingly doing a lot more dick grinding than they did back then. Seriously, thrust power alone could have blown the roof off that place. Saving grace, they definitely did it with tongues heartily in cheeks, but damn.
Chippendale’s, Magic Mike, Thunder from Down Under, ya’ll got competition. Didn’t seem like anyone was interested in complaining as they plowed (heh heh) through 33 songs with gusto.
It’s ridiculous to even examine their set in any linear fashion. It was non-stop. They confetti-bombed the fuck out of the place, they sang a holiday song and made it snow. There were pianos coming up through the floor, people going up and down on middle-of-the-stage risers. They shifted between two different stage set-ups. At one point, they all ended up in different parts of the audience, singing and hand-shaking amongst mass screaming and selfie-taking.
There were costume changes. From jean vests to satin jackets to full white suits. And dance moves. So. Many. Moves. “You Got It (the Right Stuff),” “Summertime,” “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” — they played all the favorites. They did a birthday song and brought up a girl who said it was her birthday. They sang about peace on earth. They sang next to projected pictures of their younger selves.
They all seemed to be having a really good time, especially Donnie, who looked like he would have been ready to go another hour. They clenched fists and nearly busted facial veins while delivering the ballads. They worked in a lot of cheeky stuff, like sliding up a tank top here or there, in time with the music of course, for some ab reveals. They had a change cam that allowed the audience to witness some goofy backstage silliness while they maneuvered into some different threads. During “Hard,” they spoofed their own silly lyrics with a rotation of cartoon imagery of things like cucumbers and eggplants.
Before they wrapped it up with “Hangin’ Tough,” it had gone on so long, the last half hour was just surreal. It was sensory overload as they danced through suspended confetti-filled lights in their asylum-white suits until Donnie was the last man standing. He did a quick and funny breakdance routine, followed by a couple push-ups before it was finally quits.
Couple notes, though.
First: Dear Donnie, don’t bring a little girl on stage to sing her the ballad about getting married. Fuck a whole bunch of that. She has got plenty of other things she can put on her to-do list.
And second: You don’t have to incorporate the “We Will Rock You” into “Hangin’ Tough.” I’m way late to that party but still gotta bring it up — especially since Imma let you slide with that Delfonics song.
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NKOTB Set List:
1. "One More Night"
2. "My Favorite Girl"
3. "Dirty Dancing"
4. "You Got It (the Right Stuff)"
5. "Remix ( I Like the…)"
6. "Block Party"
10. "Cover Girl"
11. "The Whisper"
12. "Stop It Girl"
14. "Be My Girl"
15. "I Wanna Be Loved by You"
16. "Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time" (cover, originally done by the Delfonics)
17. "Call it What You Want"
18. "Valentine Girl"
19. "Happy Birthday"
20. "You Got the Flavor"
21. "Dirty Dawg"
22. "Never Let You Go"
23. "If You Go Away"
24. "Peace to the World"
25. "This One’s for the Children"
26. "Still Sounds Good to Me"
27. "Hard (Not Lovin’ You)"
29. "Please Don’t Go Girl"
31. "Step by Step"
32. "I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)"
33. "Hangin’ Tough"
Last Night: Total Package tour at Talking Stick Arena: New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul, Boys II Men.
The crowd: Grown-up NKOTB fans who were beyond excited to dust off their old T-shirts and memorabilia for an evening with Danny, Donnie, Joey, John, and Jordan. Ladies, mostly ladies.
Overheard: Who could hear a fucking thing over 20,000 giddy screams?