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NKOTB Joined By A Bevy Of '80s Heavyweights For A "Mixtape" Tour


May 5th, 2019

Late '80s juggernauts New Kids On The Block brought their "Mixtape" tour to Cleveland's newly-rechristened Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse last night.  Joined by a litany of '80s stars, the boys from Boston had the likes of Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Salt-n-Pepa, and Naughty By Nature as co-headliners for a two-plus hour celebration of the pre-internet, feel good era (don't those days feel like a million years ago?).

New Kids weren't really the headliner as they were the first act to take the stage, eschewing the save-the-best-for-last formula that bedevils most concerts. However, the majority of the tunes last night came from the Boston quintet.  In a unique round-robin scenario, the artists all shared the main stage as well as a smaller, round stage set up towards the back of the arena.  With this setup, folks in the nosebleeds got an in-your-face experience, as each band took to the floor and made their spotlit way to the rear, hydraulically-lifted stage.  

Starting with an octet of tunes, New Kids were lowered from the rafters on an elevated stage.  Playing to a sold-out crowd of primarily middle-aged females, the band erupted into their signature dance moves; they pulled out "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" early in the set and then offered up "Block Party" and "Games" before departing the stage for an appearance by mall queen Tiffany.  She sang her most famous song "I Think We're Alone Now" and then quickly left the stage.  The lights dimmed and the smaller stage lit up with Debbie Gibson, decked out in an homage to '80s fashion, as she gave us a medley of her most popular tunes.  A slapdash six-minute mashup of "Out of the Blue,""Shake Your Love" and "Electric Youth" shook the rafters with a, sadly, out of tune voice on Ms. Gibson.  She had some trouble with the high notes and Joe Cockered her way through much of the evening.

As attention returned to the main stage, NKOTB came back out and performed another handful of their hits.  Next up, '90s queens Salt-n-Pepa (without Spinderella, I might add) took the stage to a very loud reception. Offering "Let's Talk About Sex," their early '90s shocking-at-the-time anthem, they followed that up with their entire popular discography. The duo surrounded themselves by male dancers that were, easily, half their age.  

Naughty by Nature performed "O.P.P.," their huge hit, and then Ms. Gibson rose out of the floor sitting at a piano, the first actual musical instrument to make its debut at this show. She offered two more of her tunes, and then...well, what does it all matter?

This was a two-hour collage of music and attitudes that transported this collection of '90s fans back to the halcyon days of their misspent youth.

Debbie Gibson was the only real musical misstep of the show.  Never a strong vocalist, her voice hasn't aged well.  But you know what?  The audience didn't care.  This wasn't a Carnegie Hall piano recital of Mozart's best work.  No one was there to make sure the musicianship was note perfect.

This was a Saturday night in early May.  Middle-aged moms were happy to get away from the kids, the job, and a handful of other things that plague middle-aged moms.  And as one of the twelve or so guys that were at the show, it was nice to see this large collection of women remembering those days of misspent youth.

To hell with crows feet and the kids' algebra homework.

Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley

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