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New Kids on the Block @ Xcel Energy Center

On the surface, one would not think there would be a lot of overlap between fans of Nelly, TLC, and New Kids on the Block. While all three are essentially a sort of danceable ’90s pop, there’s something about the mental image each group conveys that makes it difficult to put them together. Take that gritty, sexy, maybe a little vulgar, club sound from Nelly, mix it up with the smooth almost R&Bish sound of TLC, and throw in the, well, straight pop sound of the prototypical boy band that inspired all those knock-offs in the ’90s, and you’d seem to be on the right track to make about the most indigestible musical smoothie you could ever fix up. Really, the only common thread I can think off for all of this is “songs I had to listen to on the school bus growing up because the driver wouldn’t change the station from KDWB.”

But given the audience reaction throughout the evening, this trio of 90s superstars (for the sake of ease we’ll lump them in there, even though NKOTB had a bit of the ’80s in, too) were a perfect match.


The crowd was electric all night for this eclectic mix of talent, which delivered a very, very good show last night at Xcel Energy Center. When it comes to discussing this show, it seems worthless to try to talk about “performances” or the like. I mean, let’s be honest, talking performance at a pop show of this nature is like writing a Yelp review for a Burger King; yeah, maybe the one down the block usually throws on an extra pickle, but for the most part, you know what you’re getting when you order the double cheeseburger. Folks attending last night’s show knew what they were getting into. They weren’t there for some vocal excellence or to see some sort of musical mastery; this wasn’t a show, it was a spectacle. And the performers involved were well aware of that.


Running with a boxing theme, this “Main Event” tour kicked off “round one” in fight-like fashion, with a ring girl bearing a sign to the stage, followed by the ringing of a bell that brought Nelly to the stage to kick the whole night off, flying right into the classic “EI” and basically just firing off hit after spellcheck-enraging hit, from “Country Grammer” to “Ride Wit Me” and ending, of course, with “Hot In Here.” And this is where the talk about “performing” comes in, because Nelly, rather than just doing his songs, served more as a conductor for the crowd for probably an easy 60% of the set, pushing that sing along, getting folks involved, and just letting the audience roll with it. There was little of performing past him lending his energy to the people there, and that’s exactly what the people wanted. Not to sell Nelly short, of course. Getting folks involved is a tough, tough business. But this crowd was so ready to be part of the spectacle. So eager not to be sung at but to sing to, not to be performed at but to perform with, all those folks on stage.

Again, this wasn’t a show. Let me use the word again. Spectacle.


(Originally on assignment for Twin Cities Daily Planet)

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