Imagine a gauntlet of the most adored boy bands of your generation. Let loose, arrows fly from the crossbows of sex appeal, billions of little pieces of confetti burst from cannons. Pyrotechnics rain down from the heavens, representing the passion of the twelve men on stage. Imagine this dozen singers waging a war on your love.
What really happened at the Package Tour at BB&T Center on Saturday wasn't exactly knight in shining armor type stuff (although there were two Knights in sequined black denim jackets at one point). No, what seemed like the much anticipated tour featuring Boyz II Men, 98 Degrees, and New Kids on the Block proved to be a lot less thrilling than one would imagine for a line up like this -- but then again, this isn't the eighties or the nineties (we double checked).
It wasn't all disappointment and midlife crisis, but understanding why Boyz II Men were first up to play Saturday evening was no easy feat. The women in the audience were losing their minds over these guys and even New Times was pretty excited for a chance to lay eyes and ears on those smooth talking dudes from Philly. Boyz II Men took the stage at exactly 7:30 p.m., the very moment the show was scheduled to start. How often does that happen? Needless to say, it may have been too early as the stadium was looking a little sparse, though the women who did make it that early certainly filled the void with the same squawking you'd expect from a herd of thirteen year old Bieber fans.
Bouncing from center stage to end stage via a walkway, Boyz II Men were light on their feet and were just as poppy and respectable as they were in the nineties, though they now perform as a trio, and for just forty minutes. They did the dirtiest of work -- warming up the crowd for 98 Degrees.
What were 98 Degrees even doing on this tour and why were they placed smack in the middle of New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men? As it happens, this was no mistake or misjudgment, though the decision for 98 Degrees to record a new album might be. And that is why the less than agile muscle bound quartet was given such a prime slot in this whole thing, a promotional tool for some comeback.
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While Boyz II Men showed no real signs of the delusional midlife crisis we expect from a boy band revival tour, 98 Degrees more than made up for it. For a male pop group wedged between 'NSYNC and Backstreet Boys in the nineties, 98 Degrees did the best they could to make a name for themselves. The only name they made for themselves on Saturday night was "uncomfortable."
The number of times Nick Lachey shouted the phrase "Hey, ladies!" or even just the abbreviated "Ladies!" could make any woman with an even keeled range of hormones consider a sex change. But the crowd wasn't the hormonally stable type. These women were out for blood and 98 Degrees were just shameless enough to act as a sacrifice. But it didn't really seem like it was Lachey blood these women were after. The place thinned out even more during their set, leaving the four dudes on stage stripping down to their undershirts for a quarter of the audience. Their song "Uno Noche" took on a whole new meaning for them here in Fort Lauderdale in 2013.
There was no time wasted between the first two acts. The sets were low budget. No fireworks or special lighting. No spinning, whizzing, whirring stages or trapeze acts. No balloons. No confetti. Where was all the ticket money going? What did a hundred dollars get you these days?
The answer was right around the corner as the lights went up -- after 98 Degrees as a sort of intermission. We all became the New Kids on the Block's bitches.
Whoever was responsible for a show like this running on time might be the real star of the evening. Never in the history of concerts has an event ever been so prompt. At nine o'clock on the dot, the arena turned pitch black and Donnie Wahlberg's voice rang out, reading along to the words on the jumbotron screens at one end of the venue.
Inevitably, the rant began with the old adage, "Ladies!" followed by another, "Ladies!" and a few more subsequent and repetitive, "Ladies!" eventually leading up to some spiel about how we ladies, earned this evening, deserved this evening. Basically, a three minute dissertation that could lead any level-headed female to wonder "Did I really put in sixty hours at the office this week so that I could spend that money on twelve dollar beers watching what's become of the teeny bopper heartthrobs I lusted over in middle school?"
The dark-humored in the audience would have agreed there were too many "ladies" with a chuckle, while the rest of the crowd just screamed, senselessly, agreeing as they would to anything asked of them by the veteran boy band in the house.
The theatrics started as promptly as everything else, and the initial energy the five men brought to the stage was infectious for even the most respectably composed in the audience. NKOTB stayed mostly on the center stage, which unbeknownst to the audience, did in fact have the whirring, spinning, and whizzing capacity one would expect of a pop show.
Each member of the group seemed to have their respective sides of the stage, to which each section of the audience became familiar with, though the disappointment on the faces of some of the audience members was shameless when they realized that Joey McIntyre wasn't coming their way. No, they were stuck with Danny. New Times was lucky enough to land ourselves right in front of Donnie Wahlberg with the occasional Joey McIntyre sprinkled in. Sorry, "ladies!"
It didn't take long for the hip thrusts to take full effect. They are no spring chickens, though they shoved their crotches into the faces of grown women who paid good money for it. And they knew this, and they were taking it seriously on some level. But the guys that make up New Kids on the Block were genuinely having a good time as Donnie called out "Let's do it to them ten times" referring to these hip thrusts and they counted them down, all in a row, one after the other. Ten hip thrusts a piece between five group members equals fifty hip thrusts in under sixty seconds.
If you're not laughing, you're not getting it.
Pulling from twenty-five years of material -- the band never let you forget it has been twenty-five years for some reason -- the group pulled out all of their signature moves, including your staple "Please Don't Go Girl" belted out by the kid, McIntyre.
The ballads didn't slow the group down when it came to hamming it up on stage. Up on the glowing pillars rising from the stage, McIntyre laid into George Michael's "Faith," passing the mash up to Jordan Knight who followed with Prince's "Kiss," which just threw the whole show into overdrive for even a skeptic, because it didn't really matter that someone was stripping off their sequined outfit on top of a glowing stage pillar in front of a couple thousand grown women singing a song as untouchable as "Kiss." What mattered was that the person doing these things was having fun and when Jordan Knight threw his sparkly undershirt over his head, well, if you weren't laughing, you didn't get it.
The group paid tribute to their hometown and their home teams, calling out a woman who was waving a Heat jersey at Donnie, who casually mentioned that Ray Allen is on loan to help Miami out for a bit and "you're welcome." And after some more crotch grabbing and hip thrusting, the boys packed it away for "Hangin' Tough" in which they included their signature dance.
After throwing themselves into the crowd, wading through the sea of women in the floor section, serenading audience members on stage, tearing off their clothes, and (damn it, Donnie. if you could just keep it to yourself for ten minutes) full on tonsil hockey with an audience member, the guys, after two hours of wardrobe changes and jumping from one stage to the next, looked about as ready to go as all of the other weekend warriors in the arena, closing out the show at eleven o'clock exactly.
Though the show was far from sold out, it would come as no surprise if NKOTB felt compelled to tour one more time at the intensity they've been maintaining. After twenty-five years, the boys showed little sign of slowing down, though the agility and coordination proved a bit shaky. It's likely that fans will always turn out for this ultimate pop boy band so long as everyone can laugh at themselves and continue to not pretend we are all sixteen again. And as long as we can all agree that we don't need to see much more of 98 Degrees in the future.
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