I had to turn in my metal card the last time I saw New Kids on the Block in June of 2019. I loved the show so much and knew that saying that ruined my rep as being this tough metal-loving kid but there was no denying my love for NKOTB’s live show and Donnie in general. Sure, I tried to act like I didn’t want to be at their performance on Tuesday as they brought their Mixtape Tour 2022 to the Xcel Energy Center but, the truth is, I was thrilled for another chance to catch this monumental band live again.
Kicking the mega tour off was Illtown Sluggaz. I was not the only one in the audience who had no clue who these men were as they took over the small stage towards the back of the venue but when they introduced themselves, you could feel the mood in the venue shift. The group of men gracing us with their presence actually included two-thirds of Naughty By Nature. With a mix of a little bit of everything from Black Eyed Peas to Run DMC, the playlist is most easily described as accessible party music from throughout the years. Although I was confused over what was going on on the small side stage, the mix of hits they were spinning had me grinning and warming up to the night. As if having members of Naughty By Nature popping in for this show wasn’t enough, they invited 14-year-old Griffin McIntyre (heartthrob Joey from New Kids on the Block’s son) on stage to play guitar for a snippet of “Sweet Child of Mine” and to sing some of “Jack and Diane”. I’ll admit, the tracks Illtown Sluggaz were playing were fun, and seeing Griffin carry on the family tradition was great but the DJ mix seemed to go on just a bit too long. With four acts to go and the clock creeping closer and closer to my bedtime (okay, I’m being dramatic but it had been a day and I was a bit exhausted), I started to worry about how late I would be out on Tuesday night.
That was the last time I really even noticed the time because, what happened next, was so amazing and, well, perfect. I was expecting to get a set from each of the acts listed on the bill separately creating a four-act set with no end in sight so I was shocked as the lights went down and the members of NKOTB appeared on stage. Kicking their set off with “Block Party” followed by a string of six other hits including “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” (which remained stuck in my head throughout the evening), I was starting to wonder when we would be seeing the other influential acts listed on the bill but at the same time, I was so captivated by NKOTB and was a bit bummed as they left the stage after the opening set of tracks and they were replaced by En Vogue on the main stage. En Vogue was eventually replaced by Rick Astley on the smaller side stage who was eventually replaced by a return of NKOTB. After a few more NKOTB songs, we were treated to Salt N Pepa who was eventually joined on stage by En Vogue– basically, this tour was just as advertised– a Mixtape– and I loved every second of it and how the overall show was laid out.
First to take the stage outside of Illtown Sluggaz and NKOTB was the gorgeous and highly talented En Vogue. This trio has been around since the year I was born but they, like many of the other acts to take the stage, have only gotten better with age. Even though one of the members had a leg all wrapped up in a cast and had to spend the majority of their first appearance on the stage sitting in a chair positioned in the middle of the main stage while the other two members danced and pranced their way up and down the small catwalk that led to small stage offshoot, this trio did not hold back. I was thoroughly impressed by their vocal talent which could be heard so clearly through the speakers. Although they were a bit before my time and I never really got into them, I loved the razzle-dazzle that they brought to the show.
Rick Astley was another act on this mega-tour. Known for his hits including “Together Forever” and “Never Gonna Give You Up” (yeah, that one) Rick spent his opening act on the smaller side stage and sadly just didn’t seem to grab my attention as the other acts did. Maybe it was because his swooning singles just weren’t really my jam or he just really was before my time… regardless, he didn’t captivate me and his time spent on stage was time I spent jotting down notes about what all was going on around me (none of which I will use because we are already at far too many words and I still have so much more to say).
The other legendary group on this tour was Salt-N-Pepa who absolutely slayed their time spent on stage. Joined on stage by a few dancers and a whole lot of attitude and energy, I loved watching these women as they powered through hit song after hit song with an undeniable sense of swagger. Although like the others, it has been a while since Salt-N-Pepa started and it has been a while since they have really been in the spotlight (I promise I don’t mean that to sound as mean as it does), these two women have been aging like a fine wine and I can’t wait to see them again in the future.
Okay, I understand this post is longer than most so I won’t spend too much time proclaiming my love for NKOTB but their live show is truly a spectacle that you just have to see. From the synchronized dance moves to the undeniable nostalgia factor that can be felt in the air to just the amount of fun that they bring to an arena, these men absolutely know what they’re doing and they do it well. Although they are truly mega-stars, their way of interacting with the audience is something that will always keep me coming back for more. Unafraid to walk through the crowd, shake hands, take selfies and even grab the phones of their screaming fans to do a quick picture, I find it amazing how trusting these men are to those in the audience.
All of Tuesday night was a party. From the dancing to the confetti to the surprises when acts would join each other on stage to perform their hit songs all the way to the ending when everyone took the stage together for a true flashback performance of “Bring Back the Time”, there wasn’t a single moment through the show that there wasn’t a smile on my face. I could clearly go on and on about all of the intricacies of the night but I think I’ve wasted enough of your time at this point.
Oh, and if you were wondering– still team Donnie.