New Kids On The Block brought an '80s mixtape to life in Nashville

Matthew Leimkuehler
The Tennessean

Teased hair, neon windbreakers, scrunchies — Bridgestone Arena stepped back in time Thursday night and New Kids On The Block provided the soundtrack. 

The five-piece Boston boy band took Nashville back to the 1980s and '90s as part of the group's summer-long "Mixtape" tour, a run featuring support from nostalgic pop and hip-hop stars Tiffany, Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty By Nature and Debbie Gibson. 

The "Mixtape" tour played like the carefully crafted cassettes of a generation ago. It's not a typical act-by-act bill; New Kids opened, hosted and anchored the show, but yielded the stage every few songs for a support performance. 

The result? A 135-minute dose of uninterrupted nostalgic fan service. 

New Kids On The Block — Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood — entered on an elevated platform, opening the night with "The Way." Backed by flame throwers, confetti and an off-stage band, the Kids moved into a choreographed eight-song block of throwback pop (completed by Wood break dancing during "Games"). 

The New Kids on the Block perform at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, May 9, 2019.

And the "mixtape" took over from there, starting with Tiffany — a pop star with plenty of Nashville history — and her time-tested 1987 hit "I Think We're Alone Now." Debbie Gibson then took the musical baton, offering a rough-around-the-edges medley that included 1989 favorite "Electric Youth." 

The New Kids — now adults age 46 (McIntyre) to 50 (Jonathan Knight) — returned for a section of pop balladry, including a strong take on 1988's "Please Don't Go Girl." 

Wahlberg and company turned to party-like energy with "Boys In The Band," a tribute for pop groups from BTS to 98 Degrees. The group mingled with its audience, splitting time between the main stage and platforms scattered throughout the main floor. 

New Kids doubled-down on the night's "mixtape" theme by leading a throwback medley that included Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer." 

"What the hell are we supposed to do after that?" Wahlberg jested after the rapid round of covers, standing atop a stage glowing in the cutout shape of a cassette deck. 

The New Kids on the Block perform at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, May 9, 2019.

The Nashville audience reserved a hearty appreciation for Salt-N-Pepa, the best-received act not headlining the show. The favored duo, performing without longtime member DJ Spinderella, brought its head-bobbing best with "Shoop," "Whatta Man" and, of course, "Push It." 

Same goes for Naughty By Nature, which appeared briefly, but offered its marquee cuts: "O.P.P.," "Feel Me Flow" and "Hip Hop Hooray." 

The night closed with an ensemble collaboration, "'80s Baby" — a final nod to the decade each act and onlooker continues to treasure.

The New Kids on the Block perform at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., Thursday, May 9, 2019.

New Kids On The Block Mixtape tour setlist

The Way
My Favorite Girl
Dirty Dancing
You Got It (The Right Stuff)
Block Party
I Think We’re Alone Now (Tiffany)
Out Of The Blue/Shake Your Love/Electric Youth (Debbie Gibson)
Didn’t I/Valentine Girl/If You Go Away
Please Don’t Go Girl
None Of Your Business/Expression (Salt-N-Pepa)
Whatta Man (Salt-N-Pepa)
Let’s Talk About Sex (Salt-N-Pepa) 
Boys In The Band (with cover medley)
Cover Girl
O.P.P. (Naughty By Nature)
Jamboree/Feel Me Flow (Naughty By Nature)
Hip Hop Hooray (Naughty By Nature)
Foolish Beat/Only In My Dreams (Debbie Gibson)
Lost In Your Eyes (Debbie Gibson with Joey McIntyre)
Shoop (Salt-N-Pepa)
All This Time/Could Have Been (Tiffany)
I’ll Be Loving You
Step By Step
Push It (Salt-N-Pepa)
Hangin’ Tough (with Queen’s “We Will Rock You”)
‘80s Baby (with Tiffany, Salt-N-Pepa, Naughty By Nature and Debbie Gibson)