New Kids on the Block packed the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., on the first of two consecutive nights on Saturday, May 23. Dubbed The Main Event Tour, they were joined by 90s powerhouses TLC and Nelly for a nostalgic evening of entertainment.
The show setting was in-the-round, expected given its “Main Event” moniker. This gave everybody a prime view from anywhere in the arena, and also afforded a few lucky fans VIP seats on bar stools along the perimeter of the stage. Downtime was kept to a minimum between artists and a scantily clad ring card girl prefaced each set with card indication the forthcoming round.
Round 1 saw Nelly take the stage at around 7:30 p.m., touring in support of his latest album, M.O. The St. Louis rapper brought an entourage of dancers, two other rappers and all his hits during his 40-minute set, and quickly had people on their feet with the show-opening “E.I.” While he suffered from atrocious muddled audio–it was difficult to discern what he was singing due to a poor mix–fans seemed to enjoy the show nonetheless. Highlights included “Air Force Ones,” “Country Grammar” and the closing “Hot In Herre.”
Moments after Nelly left the stage, and with the lights still dimmed, a cue-card suggested Round 2 was imminent. TLC entered the stage and both T-Boz and Chilli were dressed in gold overalls with matching sneakers while being accompanied by a bevy of dancers. Opening with “What About Your Friends” from their platinum-selling debut release, the duo had no problem keeping the energy high. The late rapper Left Eye had her parts seamlessly, and effectively, added throughout the show. While they also suffered from a poor audio mix, it was an improvement over Nelly’s issues.
A similar 40-minute set ensured TLC would perform nothing but hits, and that was reinforced when they followed with “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “Baby-Baby-Baby.” While there’s been rumor of new music on the horizon, they kept it old-school and nobody complained given their repertoire of Top-10 singles. Instead, they turned Allstate into a dance party with a barrage chart-toppers that included their #1 smash singles “Unpretty,” “No Scrubs,” “Creep” and “Waterfalls.”
There was a brief intermission before New Kids on the Block took the stage. After Round 3 was announced an entertaining video showing Donnie Wahlberg in uniform facing down Method Man was used to introduce the tour. Each member of NKOTB was then individually announced as he entered the arena–each sporting a hooded robe and taking the appearance of a prizefighter as they stood at center stage.
Any fears of poor sound quickly evaporated when they opened with “Block Party.” A full live band supported their stage show and the five-piece ensured each song was a showstopper. Risers, lights and strong choreography enhanced each portion of their two-hour set; while well-timed streamers, fireworks and charges added additional exclamation at key points of the show.
Although the NKOTB stage setting placed them on a pedestal, literally. They did a great job interacting with the crowd to bring an intimacy to the show. Donnie moved into the crowd twice early during “My Favorite Girl” and the entire group joined the fans later during “Tonight.” Donne even found his wife, Jenny McCarthy, in the crowd during the latter and offered her a kiss before returning to the stage.
There were a couple outfit changes, but those were efficient and they even offered a “quick-change” cam for fans to watch as they swapped into suits within the first 30-minutes of the show. Given the bulk of their material, they kept the songs moving with a strong mix of medleys to ensure nothing was missed. They also did a sing-along with the crowd for “Good Vibrations” and a strong cover of the Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).”
Jordan Knight, Joe McIntyre and Donnie each had their moments to shine solo during the later portion of the show. They closed strong with some of their biggest hits, including “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Step By Step” and the requisite “Hangin’ Tough.”
The Main Event remaining 2015 tour dates:
May 26 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ U.S. Bank Arena
May 27 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Bridgestone Arena
May 29 – Detroit, Mich. @ Palace of Auburn Hills
May 30 – Grand Rapids, Mich @ Van Andel Arena
May 31 – Indianapolis, Ind. @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse
June 2 – Charlotte, N.C. @ Time Warner Cable Arena
June 4 – Fort Lauderdale, Fla. @ BB&T Center
June 5 – Orlando, Fla. @ Amway Center
June 6 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Philips Arena
June 7 – Louisville, Kent. @ KFC Yum! Center
June 9 – Norfolk, Va. @ Norfolk Scope Arena
June 10 – Washington, D.C. @ Verizon Center
June 12 – Uncasville, Conn. @ Mohegan Sun Arena
June 13 – Bethlehem, Pa. @ Sands Bethlehem Event Center
June 14 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ CONSOL Energy Center
June 16 – Columbus, Ohio @ Nationwide Arena
June 17 – Cleveland, Ohio @ Quicken Loans Arena
June 19 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Wells Fargo Center
June 20 – Uniondale, N.Y. @ Nassau Coliseum
June 21 – New York, N.Y. @ Madison Square Garden
June 22 – New York, N.Y. @ Madison Square Garden
June 24 – Boston, Mass. @ TD Garden
June 27 – Hershey, Pa. @ Mixtape Festival @ Hersheypark Stadium
June 28 – Toronto, Ontario @ Air Canada Centre
June 30 – Montreal, Quebec @ Bell Centre
July 2 – Buffalo, N.Y. @ First Niagara Center