A True Blockhead Reviews Grand Rapids’ ‘Main Event’ [Guest Blog]
I was lucky enough to have an up-close view from my 2nd row seat. It was smack in the center of the main stage, the middle of an “in the round” boxing theme. Promising “hit after hit after hit”, The Main Event certainly delivered. I’m aware of my bias as a lifelong Blockhead, but I think that validates my take on this unique experience. The show was tailored for me and the thousands of other women screaming in unison, after all.
Who are we, exactly? The Blockheads. The current (and forever) fans. We pay a yearly due to remain a part of the official fan club, and because of that, we end up in the first few rows of the (sometimes many) shows we attend each tour. We’ve been on the annual cruise, we went to Vegas last summer for the “Block Vegas” weekend, and we’re in on the joke. We are the reason this show exists, and the demographic that basically demands the set list and the delicious lack of shirts. Of course, there are the handfuls of surly middle-aged men who somehow ended up on the boyband beat for their local publications. But you can’t win them all, I suppose.
At 30 years old, I’m one of the youngest Blockheads in the herd. I was born the year of the band’s inception and was barely forming sentences at the height of their popularity. I never thought I’d see them as a living, breathing man-band in my lifetime.
But, they came back in 2007 and the teenybopper that had lain dormant since the demise of Backstreet Boys and NSYNC came raging back into the game. Because of this, I was able to enjoy each of the three acts with the same superfan-fervor.
I spent most of the early 90s pretending to be Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes, the tragically deceased member of TLC, and much of the early 2000s cranking Nelly’s “Country Grammar” and “Nellyville” albums out the moon roof of my 1991 Cutlass Calais. In short, I was freakin’ excited for the lineup.
After stopping at Gardella’s for what has become a ritualistic pre-concert drink location for many Van Andel shows, I was primed and ready for an excuse to “make my knees touch my elbows”. I settled into my seat only to leap back up as the lights dimmed and Nelly’s dancers worked their way through the crowd and onto the main stage.
Nelly’s voice had a rasp to it that I don’t remember from his early albums, but that wasn’t terrible, either. He packed as many hits as he could into the 45-minute set and even introduced the crowd to the reason for the infamous band-aid of yesteryear. Finally. Some answers. Once I recovered from the booty-envy brought on by the tireless dancers, I did my best at shaking my own tailfeathers and tried to pace myself for the rest of the show.
TLC was the only act I hadn’t seen previously, and I was a little nervous about whether they’d be able to balance on the pedestal where I had placed them. They made their appearance after being flanked by dancers with large, conical wings and were certainly a spectacle in orangey-gold multi-colored overalls.
Chilli looked amazing. Better than someone half her age, in a crop top that bared her impossibly tight tummy. T-Boz was ever the cool one, living up to her part in the “Crazy, Sexy, Cool” moniker. She reminded me of someone’s sassy aunt as she sauntered around the stage and delivered her signature smoldering solos.
They played hits from their first three albums, including “Ain’t 2 Proud 2 Beg” and “What About Your Friends” from “Ooh…On the TLC Tip” and the requisite radio hits from “CrazySexyCool” and “FanMail”. And they summoned tears from my face when they mentioned how they would never attempt to replace Left Eye. Admittedly, most of the energy was brought by the young dancers, but the ladies of TLC did not disappoint.
With yet another lightning fast set change, we were graced with the delightful presence of Libby Higgins’ Aunt Claudette, one of Block Nation’s most famous members. She was the “ring girl” for Saturday’s show and rightfully so. Strutting the character across all three stages in her signature neck brace and an oh-so-sexy bikini t-shirt, Aunt Claudette elicited a roar from the crowd (as just one example of those “inside jokes” I mentioned) and set the mood for the five men of the hour.
Jordan, Jon, Danny, Donnie and Joe took the stage in all their hooded glory, revealing themselves one by one to a crowd of almost 10,000 screaming fans. They started with songs everyone knows and loves from the late 80s, and smoothly transitioned into newer favorites from their 2013 album, “10”.
They expertly traversed five separately moving platforms on the main stage, sticking to the classic choreography but adding a more stately flair. No more ripped jeans or smiley faces for these boys.
They’re all dapper glory and rippling abs. Abs which Jordan and Joe shared with the eager crowd during each of their solo performances. I think they sang songs, but I honestly can’t remember. All I see in my memory are slowly gyrating muscles and a lot of sexual innuendo. (I’m kidding, of course. I know they sang songs…I just have priorities.) If I’m being honest, the gyration was a bit much for me, but I’m not mad about the shirtlessness.
My only qualm is that Donnie has inexplicably decided to start hiding his goods from us, so that Joe and Jordan have to pick up the taut, taut slack. Yes, I know that’s an oxymoron. But it makes sense in this context. Trust me.
I got emotional during “We Own Tonight”, because in that moment, we did. We, the subculture of pop fans in our sometimes silly seriousness about this aging boyband. We owned the night. The guys closed the show with “Hangin’ Tough”, as is their habit, and we all filed out of the arena, the diehard among us rushing to stand at the fence in the back of the arena.
I might have stood in a bush for an hour and a half. And I might not have. Ok, I definitely did. And I’m glad, since it resulted in some face time with Jon Knight and Danny Wood. And face time is a Blockhead’s ultimate goal.
The bush has me bruised and a little scraped up, but the memories of another amazing NKOTB show will surely heal my wounds in time for the next tour.