Donnie Wahlberg stopped midway through the New Kids on the Block show on Wednesday (May 29) at the SAP Center in San Jose and reflected back on all the naysayers and critics who claimed a “boy band” could never enjoy a lengthy career.
“They were wrong,” Wahlberg told the fans. “They were wrong about you. They underestimated the power of you. You and you alone are the reason why we are still here after 30 years.”
Yes, there probably wasn’t a lot of people back in the day who thought NKOTB would still be filling arenas in 2019, an amazing 33 years after the band’s self-titled debut came out in 1986. But the passion of the band’s fans has not dimmed over the years and, correspondingly, neither has its draw at the gate.
Part of that has to do with pure nostalgia, as people remember where they were, who they were with, when the first heard “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Cover Girl” or some other fan favorite for the first time.
Yet,these five vocalists — Wahlberg, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood — aren’t just about celebrating old memories. They are also in the business of creating new ones, which they’ve been doing in recent years with their reliably entertaining stage shows.
And this trek, dubbed the Mixtape Tour, is definitely one of the band’s best. It’s a playful and compelling salute to ’80s and ’90s music, headlined, of course, by NKOTB but also featuring fellow former hit-makers Salt-N-Pepa, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Naughty by Nature
But this package offering isn’t organized in the standard fashion, which would be to have the opening acts perform individual short sets followed a lengthy showing from the headliner. Instead, the Mixtape Tour just delivers one fairly seamless two-hour-plus set of the New Kids and their special guests.
NKOTB even took the stage first, opening the evening with an eight-song segment that included such favorites as “Block Party,” “My Favorite Girl” and, best of all, “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”
That was plenty of time to showcase the singers’ still-impressive harmonies and skillful dance moves, but before there was even a hint of a lull, it was time for the first guest appearance.
So, out comes Tiffany, the former teen pop icon who used the spotlight to deliver her best-known hit, an ’80s update on the Tommy James and the Shondells’ 1967 classic “I Think We’re Alone Now,.”
With Tiffany still ringing in our ears, it was time for Debbie Gibson to perform a short offering that included a great version of “Shake Your Love.”
It was appropriate one-two punch, since Gibson and Tiffany will always be linked as former rivals who helped define pop music in the late ’80s. They’ve been known to play up that rivalry, in good fun, such as by co-starring (and squaring off) in the underrated 2011 horror film “Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.”
Then the New Kids were back, eliciting screams of joy from the mostly female audience with “Please Don’t Go,” before handing off the spotlight to Salt-N-Pepa.
The acclaimed hip-hop act, which really should’ve been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by this point, sounded great as it ran through “Whatta Man” and “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Then more New Kids, performing “Cover Girl,” “Boys in the Band (Boy Band Anthem)” and more.
One of the things that made the show work so well was that it utilized two stages located at opposite ends of the arena floor, allowing for seamless — and pretty much instant — transitions between the different artists. The result was nearly nonstop action for the entire evening.
The next guest/support act was Naughty by Nature, which, of course, rocked the crowd with the hit “O.P.P.”
That was followed by more from Debbie Gibson (who turned in a fantastic version of “Only In My Dreams”), Salt-N-Pepa and Tiffany, who the New Kids thanked in a video segment for the sizable help she provided early on in their career.
“I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Tiffany none of us would be in this building right now,” Wahlberg said.