Sunday night’s “98 Degrees at Christmas” show at the Kravis Center was an old-fashioned feel-good holiday sing-along, right down to the gleefully cheesy reindeer and Santa sweaters, albeit a holiday sing-along where a boy band concert broke out in the middle.
And that seemed cool with fans, themselves encased in every manner of sequin and shiny thing, to hear Cincinnati’s own ’90s vocal stars break out songs from their two Christmas albums (“The Christmas Song,” “If Every Day Could Be Christmas”), their greatest pop hits, and the best of “Frozen,” because there’s a snowman involved, OK? Here are the nine most festive features of 98 Degrees’ appearance:
1) Before the boy band bounty began, concertgoers were treated to an adorable show by the talented and well-dressed second- through fourth-grade members of the Rosarian Academy Show Choir, who sang and swayed their way through several holiday classics. Did you know that the “pumpkin pie” line in “Sleigh Ride” has its own choreography and fancy arm movements? Consider yourself schooled.
2) The beautiful and direct set dressing, which looked like the set of the fanciest Christmas pageant at a school you obviously can’t afford to send your kids to, including giant dangling snowflakes and glittery trees bathed in blue light. It was tasteful, but delightfully sincere. Holiday shows are no place for irony, hipness or subtlety. Bring on the sparkle!
3) Even though half of 98 Degrees (44 Degrees?) have been on “Dancing With The Stars” (Nick Lachey was on the most recent season and brother Drew won Season 2), they’re the first to admit that they weren’t among your dancing boy bands, opting for what member Jeff Timmons described to People Magazine as “strategic staging, basically pointing and swaying.” There was a little more movement than usual at the Kravis, but they were pointing and swaying up a storm, with some Temptations-style sweeping arms and some exaggerated walking. Sexy musical walking.
4) They came to fame in their 20s, but now in their 40s, they don’t appear to pretend otherwise, coming off more like the hottest dads at Target than try-hards attempting to be cool. Which is cool on its own.
5) The show seamlessly wove in the well-sung seasonal songs (“Please Come Home For Christmas,” “Little St. Nick”) with their charttoppers - “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” segued into “Feliz Navidad,” for instance. It must be noted that the band kept sad cheating ballad “The Hardest Thing” for its encore, as it’s difficult to put that sort of thing into a “Jingle Bells” medley.
6) At one point, the group brought female audience members to sit on stools and be serenaded by the singers, who worked their way to each lady, chair-dancing and kneeling and hand-holding. The lack of straight-up fainting was admirable.
7) “True To Your Heart,” 98 Degrees’ song from the “Mulan” soundtrack, was part of a random but enthusiastic Disney medley, including Timmons and singer Justin Jeffre dueting goofily and sweetly on “Do You Want To Build A Snowman” and Drew and Nick’s “Let It Go.” Again, there’s nothing sexier than a handsome man with a sense of humor, acting out a song about animated snowmen.
8) Their harmonies are still impressive.
9) There was actual fake snow from the ceiling. Again, there’s no such thing as over-the-top in a Christmas show.