A glance around New Jersey’s Izod Center during Saturday night’s Z100 Zootopia show revealed a divided audience: there were teenage girls clutching Jonas Brothers T-shirts, tote bags and posters, and onetime-teenage girls decked out in the same attire for the recently reunited New Kids on the Block. The Jonas gang kicked off the night to earsplitting shrieks with a half-hour set of carefully choreographed rock & roll moves, down to Kevin Jonas’ guitar spins.
In addition to “Look Me in the Eyes,” “S.O.S.” and “That’s Just the Way We Roll,” the Jonases tossed in A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” a song it’s safe to say almost no one in the crowd realized was a cover. Though more than a half-dozen acts would take the stage after the Jonas Brothers, the crowd kept screeching their excitement anytime the Jersey trio’s mugs graced the arena’s screens or were mentioned by the station’s DJs.
Halfway through the nearly four-hour show the night’s other anticipated moment arrived: New Kids on the Block’s first official post-reunion concert. Their set was identical to last Friday morning’s Today show appearance, but the five singers had worked out some of the kinks. The resulting performance revealed a self-aware boy band more concerned with having fun than achieving the perfect show, as evidenced by their goofball antics and raw enthusiasm.
After a greatest-hits medley — “Step By Step,” “Hangin’ Tough,” “Please Don’t Go Girl” and “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” — and the comeback single “Summertime,” the band paused to celebrate Jordan Knight’s 38th birthday and honor their fans. “This song is for you,” Donnie Wahlberg proclaimed before “Tonight.” “This album, this tour, everything we do from now on is to pay you back.” While the sentiment was often echoed throughout the night, it felt most genuine coming from a group whose viability hinges on the support of its original fanbase.
The enthusiasm failed to peak again after NKOTB, even during a closing performance from night’s other blockbuster act, Miley Cyrus. Whether it was due to the post-bedtime set (Cyrus started at 10:45 p.m.), a string of newer songs or backlash residue from the Vanity Fair photo scandal, it took a confetti hurricane during “G.N.O. (Girl’s Night Out)” to wake the crowd up. Cyrus remained unfazed as she pranced around the stage, whipping her hair around and embodying the persona of a diva much older than her 15 years.
Zootopia’s other performers were a hodge-podge of Top 40 acts, ranging from bizarrely short one-song performances by Ferras and Sara Bareilles to a seemingly out-of-place set by Canadian pop-punkers Simple Plan and a piano rock sing-along from Gavin DeGraw that was plagued by technical issues. While OneRepublic mixed crowd favorites “Stop and Stare” and “Apologize” with two lesser-known songs that translated to a bathroom break, the energy was palpable during Danity Kane’s “Showstopper,” “Poetry” and “Damaged.” But it was Jesse McCartney’s R&B-infused performance that was the night’s true surprise, indicating that his forthcoming third LP could cement him as a Justin Timberlake for the Disney set.