If the “Magic Mike Live” show in Las Vegas is re-casting anytime soon, they might want to give a shout to any of the New Kids on the Block guys.
Every two years since 2011, the quintet of Joey McIntyre, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood have returned to arenas in various stages of tank tops and toned biceps.
For this summer’s “The Total Package Tour” – a riff on 2013’s “The Package” excursion – they again enlisted smooth crooners Boyz II Men and pulled Paula Abdul out of touring retirement (she hadn’t performed an official tour since 1992) to add to the frothy nostalgia.
And they again mixed a healthy dose of self-deprecation with lots of confetti (two rounds before the first dozen songs), inconsistent vocals and much charm.
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At Infinite Energy Arena on Friday night, a sold-out crowd of predominantly NKOTB-period fans donned their new $45 T-shirts and old, faded ones bearing barely visible outlines of the mullet-ed teens of the mid-‘80s.
They waited patiently, phones aloft, while the quintet opened with the perfectly passable, but not exactly scintillating, new song, “One More Night.”
A few tunes later, the familiar “uh-oh-oh-OH-oh” refrain in “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” filled the air and the aerobic workouts began at nearly every seat in the venue.
The guys have retained their individual appeal. Wood possesses the brawniest body, while Wahlberg affects the brawniest persona. Jordan Knight and McIntyre are the cutie pies with the nimblest vocals, and Jonathan Knight is the shy guy who refuses to flex his pecs or suggestively sip a water bottle on the “quick change cam,” unlike his hammy group mates.
What the quintet lacks in vocal stability – Wahlberg’s voice flattened instantly on “Be My Girl,” the group’s first-ever single from 1986, but Jordan Knight showcased a falsetto with nary a scratch during his lead turn on their hit version of The Delfonics’ “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” – they compensate for mightily with their fun performance.
They surprised sections of the crowd by seemingly popping up out of nowhere during “Tonight,” a clever way to eventually arrive at the B-stage at the back of the arena.
Once there, they strolled through “Summertime” and the catchy “Games,” which featured a Wahlberg rap.
Back on the main stage – which included a square ramp for the guys to race around, a pianist took center stage as Wahlberg lapped the stage for “Cover Girl.” The new rendition affected a tougher vibe, but really, it was all just an excuse for Wahlberg to stand in a ring of fire atop the piano to show off his six-pack (and no, he was not doing this seriously).
Their goofiness extended to “I Wanna Be Loved By You,” which included some hilarious photos from the Teen Beat days, and all of their other “girl” songs (“Stop It Girl,” “Please Don’t Go Girl”) retained the innocuous slow-jam theatricality that helped catapult them to stardom in the ‘80s.
It is almost hard to reconcile that Abdul has been with us since 1988; her “American Idol” resurrection and the ubiquity associated with the show almost makes one forget how long ago she forged a music career.
Abdul has always been regarded more as an entertainer – a top-notch dancer with a flair for fashion and catchy pop songs – than a singer, and that hasn’t changed.
Her 30-minute set spotlighted her six biggest hits – “The Way That You Love Me,” “Opposites Attract” and “Cold Hearted” among them – as she changed costumes from one leg-baring sequined number to another.
Abdul remains a masterful dancer, and she was gamely tossed around by her impressive troupe (can you imagine what it must be like to audition as a dancer for Paula Abdul?).
She donned a flowing, white gown and demonstrated her graceful dance moves on “Rush Rush,” sparred with MC Skat Kat on the video screen during the frisky “Opposites Attract” and reminded us of the pop perfection that is “Forever Your Girl.”
Abdul also stretched her set by turning on her cheerleader perkiness to share messages about loving yourself and never giving up.
“Don’t let anybody tell you ‘you can’t.’ I always say, life’s too short, and so am I!”
Boyz II Men kicked off their opening set with their jauntiest groove, the infectious “Motownphilly.”
The trio of Nathan Morris, Shawn Stockman and Wanya Morris captivated the audience with their note-perfect renditions of “On Bended Knee” and “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” as they engaged with fans thrusting camera phones toward them.
The trio’s harmonizing was flawless, and the purity of their vocals was evident throughout, even as they closed out their performance with the 1992 weeper, “End of the Road.”