It’s a bit audacious to call your summer tour “The Main Event” when you’re largely invisible from today’s music scene, but that’s what New Kids on the Block titled its new tour that played Scottrade Center on Friday night.
The tour further represents New Kids’ admirable ability to remain a touring force, packing fans into arenas (11,000 for this show) even while the hits have slowed, something usually reserved for much older acts. Maybe this group is the new nostalgia.
Recent years have seen the guys on the road with Backstreet Boys and Boyz II Men successfully; this time around the group is joined by R&B act TLC and rapper Nelly.
Toying with a boxing theme that included “The Main Event” title, a video introduction by Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer and the singers walking out in hooded robes, New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood came to party.
Far from being New or Kids, the group is still made up of slick showmen who can hold down the stage like it’s yesterday. The group opened with “Block Party,” full of confetti and smoke that returned often as the fellows moved about across a stage that spanned from one end of the arena floor to the other. When they weren’t running, dancing, strutting and flexing, they were being raised and lowered on various platforms and stairs for different well-choreographed set pieces.
“Block Party” — along with “Crash,” “The Whisper,” a remix of “My Favorite Girl” and “You Got It (the Right Stuff)” — demonstrated New Kids on the Block striving to remain fresh with enough EDM and hip-hop flourishes to sound current without alienating the band’s fan base.
The fun, energetic show moved quickly; after the first hour, it felt as if a couple of hours had passed.
Though the singers still work better as a group and always have, there were various solo turns from Jordan Knight, McIntyre and Wahlberg, respectively. McIntyre in particular impressed with his version of “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” while Knight’s best-of-show seemingly came with his undone shirt.
During “Tonight,” each group member ran out into a different section of the audience and posed for selfies, shook hands and goofed off.
A live “quick change cam,” showing the singers backstage changing their outfits, raised more than a few eyebrows. If anyone suspected it was just a clip they play at every stop, Wahlberg quashed that when he held up a St. Louis Cardinals’ T-shirt and Blues jersey.
Returning decked out in suits, the group delivered a packed suite of ballads including “Let’s Try It Again,” “We Own Tonight,” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time”), “If You Go Away” and “Please Don’t Go Girl” that sounded wobbly at times.
“Good Vibrations,” a No. 1 hit long ago by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, was teased nicely. “It’s a great song. It just happens to be performed by another Wahlberg,” Donnie Wahlberg said, referring to his brother Mark.
“Hangin’ Tough” was meshed with Queen’s “We Will Rock You” during a finale that begged the question: What can New Kids on the Block possibly have up its sleeve the next time around?
It was hard to imagine there will be another time around for TLC, one of the best-selling female acts of all time — of course touring minus the group’s most colorful member, rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (she died in 2002).
Hearing hits such as “What About Your Friends,” “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg,” “Creep,” “Waterfalls,” “Unpretty” and “No Scrubs” again at long last by TLC’s T-Boz and Chili was a treat on one level. It has been forever. Even during the group’s heyday these songs weren’t toured enough.
Still, Lopes was the group’s firecracker, and without her the spark is gone.
During not-bad newish song “Meant to Be,” video was displayed of the group performing and having fun together back in the day. The women said they will never replace Lopes — though we still have the reality show where they tried to do just that burned into our memories.
At the top of Nelly’s set, masked female dancers walked down the aisles on their way to the stage where they joined him and rappers Ali and City Spud for Nelly’s opening song “E.I.,” one of his earliest hits.
Nelly, in classic form, ran through his hits from there, songs such as “Batter Up” and “Pimp Juice” from his 2000 debut album “Country Grammar,” jams such as “Where the Party At,” “Shake Ya Tailfeather,” “Air Force Ones,” his biggest ballad “Dilemma,” his pop comeback single “Just a Dream” and country comeback remix “Cruise,” which he recorded with Florida Georgia Line.
Much of the set was hampered by bad sound, but Nelly barreled through, performing “Grillz,” “Hot in Herre” and a quick party medley of others’ hits.
During a quick cute detour, he donned a black hat while DJ Trife played Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” prompting Nelly to break out into an old-school dance. “Let me get back to what I do,” he said quickly.
The cast of Nelly’s BET reality show “Nellyville,” including his girlfriend and children, were spotted on the floor watching the concert while the show’s cameras filmed them.