The spotlight operators at Staples Center earned their paychecks Friday night as they closely followed the members of New Kids on the Block, 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men -- a dozen singers in all -- through a 3½-hour concert packed with group choreography, dudes-on-stools balladry and Donnie Wahlberg’s frequent excursions into the near-capacity crowd.
This was the Los Angeles stop of the so-called Package Tour, a canny attempt by these three veteran boy bands to soak up some of the adoration (and the cash) currently being showered on the new-school likes of One Direction and Big Time Rush. And though the audience may have aged since the acts’ heydays, the deafening cheers at Staples suggested that the ploy is working.
Pop & Hiss will have a full review of the production -- which is to visit Anaheim’s Honda Center on July 13 -- in the hours to come. For now, though, here are five instant impressions.
1. Opening the show, Boyz II Men waited all of 10 minutes before adorning the stage with what appeared to be rose petals for “I’ll Make to Love You.”
2. The default mode for new music by aging boy bands? Coldplay. In “Microphone,” from this year’s “2.0,” 98 Degrees rode a surging groove that strongly recalled Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.” Later, New Kids on the Block lifted the ringing piano lick from “Clocks” for its 2013 song “The Whisper.”
3. These guys aren’t afraid of their old dance moves. Even Jonathan Knight, who otherwise seemed the least enthused about having become a New Kid again, got into the side-to-side spirit for “You Got It (The Right Stuff).”
4. It might be some kind of pop-cultural crime that Jordan Knight isn’t leading a solo career on par with that of another boy band refugee, Justin Timberlake. In “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” his white-soul falsetto shone with undimmed precision, while his take on Prince’s “Kiss” oozed grown-up sexuality. Knight’s Package peers should consider giving him a spot in the show to do his great 1999 solo single “Give It to You.”
5. The New Kids’ love of their Boston hometown runs so deep that they tricked out their show-closing rendition of “Hangin’ Tough” with a bit of “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by that city’s premier Celtic punk band the Dropkick Murphys. Few, it seems safe to say, would have predicted that in 1988 -- if indeed anyone would have predicted that New Kids on the Block would still be around at all.