There’s not much the HVAC system can do to cool U.S. Bank Arena on a hot June night when the place is sold out.
And all a performer such as Donnie Wahlberg can do in such sweaty conditions is run around the stage with his shirt off.
Wahlberg’s group New Kids On The Block headlined a three-way boy-band package that also included Boyz II Men and Cincinnati’s own 98 Degrees. The two opening acts each delivered professional performances in the boy-band tradition, with much crooning, harmonizing, long-stemmed-rose-tossing and audience hand-holding.
But the New Kids’ two-hour headlining set was the boy-band master class. They are so cocky, so over the top, that all other boy bands must bow down. They don’t just hold your hand, stare into your eyes and sing a verse to you. Wahlberg will grab a woman in the front row and lock lips with her for a solid 10 seconds. Maybe it was 20 seconds. Maybe time stood still.
We will assume that the women in the place approved, as they were unleashing screaming 1989 teenage versions of themselves, contributing to the heat and humidity in the joint.
The quintet performed on a pentagon-shaped stage in the middle of the arena. Portions of the stage would spin and lift for heightened dramatic effect on ballads such as Joey McIntyre’s centerpiece “Please Don’t Go Girl.” He dropped to his knees, on an airborne riser, high above the crowd, and pleaded to his girl, whom he did not want to go: “It’s been 25 years! It’s been 25 years!”
Of course, that was in reference to how long the band has been in the public eye. And though the New Kids don’t crank out hits like they once did, they still strut around the stage as if it were the late ’80s.
They bookended the set with two of their biggest hits “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Hangin’ Tough,” and in between came a few wardrobe changes, a medley of cover songs and several other quarter-century-old NKOTB hits, like “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind),” “Step by Step,” “Cover Girl” and “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever).”
The New Kids also welcomed 98 Degrees back to the stage as both groups – that’s a total of nine handsome men – sang the 98 Degrees hit “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche).”
The Cincinnati group’s 45-minute set was good, full of the hyper-romantic material and harmonizing that made 98 Degrees hit-makers in the late ’90s.
Setting the tone for Wahlberg’s future exploits, each member of the quartet removed his shirt down to the sleeveless undershirt and sang a verse of “My Everything” to a woman sitting on a stool. In case that particular woman wasn’t paired with her favorite 98 Degree, the men rotated positions throughout the songs, until each woman got a little time with each man.
The group brought back Boyz II Men, whom 98 Degrees called their musical heroes, to the stage. The Boyz II Men half-hour warm-up set was good, and the best musical moment of the night was the 98 Degrees-Boyz II Men pairing on an a cappella rendition of the old doo-wop song “In the Still of the Night.”