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Concert Reviews:
New Kids bring a total package of fun to the Palace
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUBURN HILLS -- They’re trying to put together a new boy band on TV these days.

But the real thing showed how to do it right on Thursday night, June 29, at The Palace.

New Kids On The Block has been around a long time -- 33 years -- and still manages to fill arenas (12,000 or so at The Palace) for old school, nearly all female fans enjoying hot flashbacks and their offspring, and in some cases their offspring’s offspring. Some of the Boston quintet’s brand of MTV-era pop hasn’t worn particularly well but the five singers have, with voices and sculpted bodies largely intact into their mid-40s.

When Donnie Wahlberg rapped that “critics said we were just a flash/but we’re still kickin’ ass,” it was hard to argue otherwise.

This year’s edition of the group’s Total Package Tour is also a particularly potent one. The three acts -- NKOTB, Paula Abdul (returning to the road after 26 years) and Boyz II Men) -- boast a combined dozen platinum-or-better albums and nearly two dozen Top 10 hits. It was a three-and-a-half hour nostalgia trip, with only 10 minutes of intermission time between Abdul and KNOTB, and the pop partisans at The Palace certainly left with their good memories largely intact.

Related: Click her for more photos from Thurday’s Total Package Tour stop at The Palace

Boyz and Adbul’s set both suffered from a bit of chattiness but covered all the essential basis. The Boyz showed off their harmonies with a capella renderings of “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday” and the Five Satins’ “In The Still Of The Night” while working through favorites such as “Motownphilly,” “On Bended Knee” and “End Of The Road.” Only a quixotic rock medley -- of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and his arrangement of the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” and Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven” -- momentarily derailed the trio’s smooth 45-minute performance.

Adbul, meanwhile, showed she can still dance and has plenty of daring -- being carried around by and jumping into the arms of her six dancers -- as she vamped through a set of pre-recorded hits such as “The Way That You Love Me,” “Straight Up,” “Forever Your Girl” and “Opposites Attract,” the latter with MC Skat Kat dueting from the video screen. But a plethora of costume changes -- seven for six songs -- and speed-bump gaps between songs left her tightly scripted return feeling stiff.

And while every step of NKOTB’s hour-and-50-minutes onstage was certainly thought out, the group showed how to make it still look loose and exuberant. Maximum entertainment is the group’s stock in trade, from multiple confetti and streamer shows to plenty of pyrotechnics and up-close-and-personal strolls onto the Palace floor and even into the lower bowl. The 34-song set was exhaustive to a fault -- particularly during a 17-song, career-spanning medley that dug well below the group’s top shelf material -- but the likes of “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “Remix (I Like The),” “Games,” “Step By Step” and “Hangin’ Tough,” coupled with Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” still hang, well, tough and timeless in the pop canon.

And the group’s Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre each got a chance to show off their pipes, and their pecs, with torchy late-show renditions of “I’ll Be Loving You” and “Please Don’t Go Girl,” respectively.

The key to NKOTB’s continued success is the group members get the inherent silliness of men in their mid-40s still trading on teenage tunes and dance steps -- and they play to it. The genuine affection the group has for its songs and its audience shone through and made for an exuberant celebration on Thursday that was neither pandering nor condescending -- or self-serious, which was crucial.

And as long as the group can keep that attitude intact, there’s no doubt its fans will indeed be loving NKOTB forever -- or at least for as long as it keeps coming around.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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