Saturday, August 10, 2013

Reunited, 98 Degrees enjoys heat of spotlight again

By  John Kiesewetter

The Cincinnati Enquirer 

A new album, a summer tour.
It’s like old times for 98 Degrees — which has been on the road this summer to promote2.0, their first studio album since 2000, and tour with fellow 1990s heartthrobs New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.
Singing together again “felt like the 12 years (apart) were never there,” said Nick Lachey, 39. “ That was a relief to all of us. We knew that we got this.”
Jeff Timmons, 40, concurred: “It sounds freaking awesome!”Timmons, a Massillon native, formed 98 Degrees in 1995 in Los Angeles with the addition of Justin Jeffre, Lachey and Lachey’s brother Drew — all Cincinnati natives.Since their 2002 hiatus from performing together, they often talked about reuniting. They took their fans’ temperature in August 2012 — singing on Today on NBC and at Hershey, Pa. Then they grew serious about harmonizing their schedules.
“This takes a year-and-a-half commitment,” said Drew Lachey, 36. “That was our biggest hurdle in getting back together.”
The group last performed together eight years ago in Cincinnati at a fundraiser for Jeffre’s mayoral campaign.“We’ve been thinking about getting together for a long time,” said Jeffre, 40. “It just took us longer than we thought.”
The reunion yielded an invitation to join the nostalgic “Package Tour,” and ticket sales were brisk for the original 25 dates. When the tour ends on Sunday in Indianapolis, they will have performed 47 shows.
“To be selling out shows with legendary bands in huge arenas, that was super gratifying,” said Timmons, a music producer, writer and performer based in Las Vegas.
Their new album is a more-mature reboot with songs about men in their 30s looking for love and relationships.
“We found a balance between classic 98 Degrees . . . and fitting into the modern world,” Jeffre said.
He recalled his first 98 Degrees gig singing Boyz II Men’s arrangement ofThe Star - S pangled Banner at Dodger Stadium — three days after he arrived in Los Angeles. Two days after Drew Lachey drove cross-country, he opened with 98 Degrees at the House of Blues in Los Angeles.
The 10-week tour was scheduled around the filming schedule of New Kid singer Donnie Wahlberg, who stars on the CBS drama Blue Bloods, and Drew Lachey’s summer arts camp with his wife, choreographer Lea, at the School for Creative & Performing Arts in Cincinnati.
Performing solo in recent years “enhanced our ability,” Timmons said.
“Being better individually made us better as a group,” Nick Lachey said, jokingly adding: “ Finally Justin is pulling his weight.”
Jeffre didn’t miss a beat — noting that Lachey was the worst of the four at remembering lyrics: “ Even songs he’s written!”
Doing 47 concerts in 69 days “is the most grueling schedule I’ve ever seen,” Nick Lachey said.
“We’re hoping we haven’t killed each other by the end of the tour,” his brother said.
But, if all goes well, 98 Degrees could tour more after a break this month, Drew said. “We’ll probably go back out in the fall. Success builds on success.”