Boy bands come with an expiration date, right?
To be sure, some boy-band alums get a second act. Everybody knows about Justin Timberlake of N’Sync, right? Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers ended up with a big hit with his group DNCE, and Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block has experienced a commendable acting career (see CBS’ “Blue Bloods”).
But no boy band has enjoyed a second act quite like New Kids on the Block.
Heartthrobs in the late ’80s and early ’90s, NKOTB have spent the ’10s as a hot concert attraction. Why? Because they are resourceful entertainers and savvy packagers.
Selling hormone-evoking nostalgia, teenage fun and hot adult bodies, NKOTB, with its five heyday members, packed Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday night — their fourth sold-out show in the Twin Cities this decade.
Wahlberg, easily the most popular of these Middle-Aged Kids (now ages 46 to 50), told the 15,000 fans — about 98% of whom were women probably ages 35 to 50 — Tuesday that the critics were wrong; the naysayers underestimated the faith of the fans. And the cheesiness of the New Kids.
As they have done on recent tours, these guys used all the clichéd arena gimmicks including confetti, streamers, flames and a mirrored ball. They employed the same ploys of showing off their six-pack abs and bringing along other era-appropriate oldie acts.
But what set the Mixtape Tour 2019 apart was the shake-it-up approach. Eschewing an opening act, NKOTB kicked it off with eight selections and then let the guests — Tiffany and Debbie Gibson and later Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature — appear throughout the show, which, of course, afforded the headlining quintet a chance to change outfits.
To add to the mix, NKOTB played DJs, dancing to recordings of such hits as Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (which gave New Kid Jordan Knight a chance to do his best “Magic Mike” PG strip tease).
But, as Wahlberg acted as a hypeman, the tune that got the night’s loudest reaction was — surprise — Bon Jovi’s singalong “Livin’ on a Prayer.”
The 2¼-hour marathon was seamless, with no pauses between acts and arguably the most skillful and consistent use of a satellite stage at any arena tour. And some of the acts, including NKOTB, Naughty and Tiffany, wandered through the crowd, shaking hands, posing for selfies and even performing.
You haven’t experienced boy-band pandemonium until Wahlberg sings in your section — OMG! my section, 117 — and adult women carry on like their 12-year-old selves.
Never mind that NKOTB used recorded music and that neither Wahlberg nor Knight (who has a likable falsetto) has a voice worthy of a recording contract. Or that Gibson is eternally perky, and Tiffany, whose bray of a voice sounds like part Cher and part Stevie Nicks, must still buy her clothes at the mall.
At least, Naughty by Nature, especially rapper Treach with his fast flow, and Salt-N-Pepa — minus DJ Spinderella, who was fired in January — brought the high-octane energy, irresistible rhythms and nonstop fun.
New Kids brought smooth choreography, soulful harmonies and a little attitude, especially when parading around in Boston Bruins jerseys in the Minnesota Wild’s arena for the encore of “Hangin’ Tough.”
And the Beantown boys brought the cheese, which peaked when Gibson and NKOTB’s Joey McIntyre (who has a creditable Broadway-ish tenor) stood atop a grand piano and duetted on her 1989 hit “Lost in Your Eyes.”
Exactly 30 years after NKOTB made their debut at the Minnesota State Fair (with Tiffany), these oldies showed they’re still hangin’ tough because, long after their expiration date, they still have the right stuff for their fans.