New Kids On The Block

Wels Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA – 6/27/19

Review and Pictures: Tara Lakatos

The Mixtape Tour featuring NKOTB along with other 1980s and 90s hit makers Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty By Nature hit the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on June 27, 2019.  This show was filled with nostalgia, platinum hits and nearly every woman in the Philly metro area that grew up with these artists.  The show wasn’t listed as sold out but I honesty did not see an empty seat anywhere in the arena.  In a time that so many of the bands I grew up on are hanging up their careers, this tour proved that there is still a ton of life in music that is 30+ years old.  

In the past, I have been hard on tours that bill five acts in one show for a few reasons.  First, the sets for the opening bands are super short, and second, the shows drag on for 6-7 hours.  This tour, although there were 5 acts, seamlessly flowed between two stages in just about two hours.  The show featured 38 hits, NKOTB had the bulk of the set, but each of the other artists intermingled throughout the evening, it’s called the Mixtape Tour for a reason. I enjoyed this show so much I had to see it twice.

NKOTB opened up with “The Way” which appears on their 2019 30th anniversary edition of “Hangin’ Tough”.  The guys were lifted into the air and sang much of the song on a large platform in the middle of the main stage.  Right out of the gate I was taken back to 1990 when I first saw them at what was then, the Philadelphia Sprectrum.  Jordan Knight’s voice simply did not age and the harmonies brought by Donnie Wahlberg, Jon Knight, Joey McIntyre and Danny Wood were crisp and clean.  I was also impressed that their dance moves were still there.  The first part of their set included “My Favorite Girl”, “Summertime”, “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”,Block Party” and “Remix”.  They moved between the main stage and the B stage by running through the audience.  They spent time singing from the floor and the stands, as well as taking selfies with their adoring fans.  For a band of their caliber, they were insanely fan friendly and seemed to love being in the crowd, especially Donnie.  

Tiffany was up next on the main stage.  She belted out her mega hit “I Think We’re Alone Now”.  Her voice was in top form while she commanded the huge stage all by herself.  I was hoping for more, but had to wait until later on in the show.

Debbie Gibson lit up the B stage next singing “Out of the Blue”, “Shake Your Love” and “Electric Youth”.  These were all shortened versions of the songs so I felt a bit short changed.  Debbie nailed these songs, her voice was top notch.  These songs were written when she was a young teenager, but they have aged well and could easily be hits today.  Songs that are well written definitely stand the test of time.  

NKOTB reappeared on the main stage to perform some of their ballads.  They performed “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind”, “Valentine Girl and “If You Go Away”.  Then Joey took center stage and belted out an insanely emotional rendition of “Please Don’t Go Girl”.  He took a few minutes during the song to reflect upon the fact that he has been singing this song for 30 years and thanked the audience for staying with them for all that time and he said I’ll still be singing this song in another 30 years.  

Then for the first time of the night rappers Salt-N-Pepa hit the main stage.  This may seem like a weird fit with 3 previous artists but they were all played on the same top 40 stations at that time and every person in the audience knew every word.  Salt-N-Pepa were pioneers at the time and pushed the envelope with lyrics and sexual expression.  They pumped out 5 songs during this set including two of their biggest hits “Whatta Man” and “Let’s Talk About Sex”.  They brought out some eye candy male dancers, and said its ladies night.  Their raps were sharp, the dancers were super talented and they brought their brand of hip-hop to the pop show.  

NKOTB came back out of a couple of songs including “Cover Girl”, which was the Donnie Wahlberg show.  He is still the bad ass that I had a crush on 30 years ago.  He strutted along the stage, he dropped the f-bomb more than most, and ripped his shirt off and threw it into the audience.  I can’t imagine the catfight that ensued for a piece of his sweaty shirt.  He also brought a few little girls up on stage with him.  They had some strong 1989 dance moves even though their parents were probably their age at that time.  

Naughty By Nature had the shortest set list of the evening only appearing once out on the B stage.  They started their set with “OPP” which came out when I was about 13.  My best friends at the time were beyond obsessed with this song; I wish they could have come along for the show.  They also performed “Feel My Flow” and their other huge hit “Hip Hop Hooray” which had everyone in the audience yelling hey-ho.  

Debbie Gibson’s last set had her up on the main stage with a grand piano and her signature fedora.  She performed “Foolish Beat” and “Only in My Dreams”, and then broke out into “Lost in Your Eyes”.  She sang the first verse and Joey McIntyre came out to sing with her.  He took the next verse and then they went back and forth and harmonized the remainder of song.  Debbie stepped up and knelt on the piano and Joey soon followed.  As they hit the bridge they both stood on the piano, held hands and sang into each other’s eyes.  This performance was perfect in every way.  

For the home stretch of the evening Salt-N-Pepa hit the second stage to perform “Shoop”.  While honestly I have never been a fan of this song, I’m not sure why, but live the song was really good.  Feeling the energy of the crowd always makes me like songs that I do not really care for recorded.  Tiffany came bake out to perform two ballads, “All This Time” and “Could’ve Been”.  It would have been great if she could have squeezed in another song or two in the set, but what we were give was great. 

The finale was NKOTB with “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever) and “Step By Step” that blended into Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It”. NKOTB hit the stage one last time and closed out an exhausting and fun night with “Hangin’ Tough” and “80s Baby”.  I’m sure that I am not the only one that didn’t want this night to end but at 2 hours the show was pretty perfect.  I think a couple of more songs could have been added to Tiffany’s and Naughty By Nature’s sets but at some point the show would end up being too long.  

The Mixtape Tour has been going on for quite a few summers now and I think that as long as these artists want to tour, the fans will still show up in droves.  The artist’s sang their hearts out and the fans screamed, sang, and danced their worries away.  It was the perfect girlfriends night out with a tour package that had a little of something for everyone from that era.  If this tour comes your way I’d grab a few friends and make a night out of it; it’s definitely worth it. 

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