98 Degrees @ City National Grove – 12/20/2017
A chilly December Orange County evening seemed only appropriate to welcome 98 Degrees to the City National Grove of Anaheim on Thursday December 20th. Spreading holiday cheer and warming up the night, a nearly sold out crowd welcomed the famous boy band to SoCal. At the tail end of their 31 city tour, the band brought their ‘Let It Snow’ show to support their most recent release of the same name. The wildly famous boy band has spent the past two decades creating pop music magic but also now have released two Christmas-themed albums.
Gone are the heydays of playing worldwide arena sized shows, but the guys (originally from Cincinnati, OH) can still pack a venue. Having sold over 10 million albums worldwide, the group is a rarity in the ‘boy band’ world as their origin was not created by a record executive. It was formed organically and independently, consisting of Jeff Timmons, Justin Jeffre along with two brothers Nick and Drew Lachey.
The setlist for the evening was obviously holiday classic heavy but also mixed in at least a half dozen of their Top 40 radio hits from the late ‘90s/early 2000s. In addition to their original Christmas songs (that have appeared on their 2 albums) they made sure to present their takes on timeless holiday classics. The spotlight throughout the night was consistently on Nick Lachey, who tends to carry a bulk of the vocal work. He has made a secondary career out of hosting television shows and along with his wife Vanessa, appeared as contestants on the last installment of Dancing With The Stars on ABC earlier this year. Vanessa was front and center with two of their kids, the evening was an additionally special show for Nick Lachey as it was the first time his daughter, Brooklyn got to see him sing live in concert. He even playfully recognized them during the show’s opening number.
The band opened the night with “If Every Day Could Be Christmas” to loud cheers and female screams as they individually entered the stage, which was decked out festively with large hanging snowflake cutouts and a Christmas tree. The guys were outfitted in matching velvet suits, looking very formal as they busted out more holiday tunes (“The Christmas Song” and “Little Drummer Boy”) before breaking course for the first time in the evening to play “Because Of You”, their first big hit from 1998 (the song reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart).
With no opening act, the band played a solid 90 minute show with a brief 20 minute intermission. This evening the Grove was mainly packs of woman, couples and even families decked out with Santa hats and ugly Christmas sweaters (intentional and ‘unintentional’ as described by Drew Lachey during a break in-between songs). When they returned from their mid-set intermission they ditched their formal clothing for more casual attire. As expected, many standard Christmas classics were given 98 Degrees flavor—including “Little Saint Nick”, “Run Rudolph Run”, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Let It Snow”. During “Christmas Wish” four lucky ladies from the audience were serenaded by the band while seated on stage on stools.
They managed to work in “Feliz Navidad” during a successful mash-up with “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)”, their 2000 Latin flavored hit which reached #2 on the Billboard charts. As the show steamrolled towards the ultimate finale, there was a short Disney section that included a comical melody of “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” and “Let It Go” from Frozen culminating in Drew jumping into his brother Nick’s arms. “True To Your Heart” (their duet with Stevie Wonder from Disney’s Mulan) segued nicely into “Circle Of Life” just prior to main set closer “This Gift”. After a very short absence, the guys returned for a quick encore in Christmas sweaters. “The Hardest Thing” (quite possibly their most recognizable hit) got everyone out of their seats again and the only song ever to name drop ‘Dr. Zhivago’.
Although the band was most relevant back when TRL was popular (the first time) on MTV, they provided a fun, light hearted holiday show—filled with occasional female screaming but most importantly, festive harmonies and vibes. The Let It Snow tour ended Saturday, December 23rd with a performance at Stateline in Primm, Nevada.
98 Degrees Setlist: If Every Day Could Be Christmas | What Christmas Means To Me | The Christmas Song | Little Drummer Boy | Because Of You | River | Mary, Did You Know? | Oh Hey Night | Invisible Man | Little Saint Nick | Please Come Home For Christmas | Run Rudolph Run | Season Of Love | Christmas Wish | Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)/Feliz Navidad | I’ll Be Home For Christmas | Let It Snow | I Do (Cherish You) | You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch | Do You Want To Build A Snowman/Let It Go | True To Your Heart | Circle Of Life | This Gift Encore: The Hardest Thing | Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas