98 Degrees Heats Up Rocksino Crowd
November 24th, 2018
Emerging from the late '90s "boy band" scene, Ohio-born and bred harmonizing swooners 98 Degrees made a triumphant post-Thanksgiving return to Northeast Ohio. Comprised of brothers Nick and Drew Lachey, Massillon-raised Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre, the quartet had the mostly-female Hard Rock Rocksino audience on their feet cheering and singing along for the ninety-minute show.
As a concert photographer, the prospect of fifteen hundred inebriated middle-aged women, reliving the halcyon days of their youth and still dealing with a tryptophan-induced headache, can be one of the scariest propositions I could face. If I blocked the view of a Nick Lachey acolyte, there may be a pointed-toe stiletto coming my way.
Armed with that knowledge, I made my way into the pit. Along with three other photographers, we made our way past the front row, big-ticket spenders, who were all eagerly awaiting the quartet to make their way to the stage. Starting a fashionably five minutes behind schedule, the band made an entrance accompanied by the cat calls and cheers that befit a Chippendale's show rather than a concert.
Offering a Christmas concert, 98 Degrees played a handful of their hit tunes as well as about twenty Christmas songs. They got such hits as "Because of You" and "Invisible Man" out early, dusting them off for a generation of fans who first heard the m in middle school. Eschewing most of the standard fare a holiday concert may offer, the outfit served up lesser known tunes at first, such as "Christmas Wish." Later, deeper into the set, a bevy of standards and covers of other, well-known holiday favorites such as the Jackson 5's "Santa Claus is Coming To Town," and The Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick" were presented.
An early set list tune, a gregarious cover of Thurl Ravenscroft's immortal "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" didn't have the same punch as the guy who also voiced Tony the Tiger, but baritone/bass Jeffre came pretty damn close to hitting those iconic lower notes.
Finishing out the evening with a trio of tunes most associated with the band, "True To Your Heart," the flamenco-inspired ballad "Uno Noche, and their 1999 Top 40 holiday hit "This Gift," the foursome returned to encore with "The Hardest Thing" and, of course, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
In a nutshell, this is a critic-proof show. Bands like 98 Degrees, 'N Sync, and NKOTB are a love-em-or-hate-em proposition. You either buy into what they're selling or you don't. Their success, and the rich harmonies of the band which, by the way, exists in spades, are a testament to their longevity in this business. While some of the choreography felt unrehearsed and a tad lazy, the vocals made up for anything lacking in their moves. Judging by the vociferous crowd there, I'd say that if they'd come back next year, they'd undoubtedly be greeted by the same excited crowd.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley