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CONCERT REVIEW 98 Degrees: We do cherish fans



Published: Fri, August 17, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Vocal harmonies and versatility made the 98 Degrees concert a hot ticket.

By DEBORA SHAULIS

ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

NILES -- Well into its concert Thursday night at Cafaro Field, pop quartet 98 Degrees pulled something different out of its bag of tricks. It was the song & quot;I Wish & quot; by one of their inspirations, Stevie Wonder.

The quartet's four-piece band turned delightfully funky. The singers had fun as they traded lyrics about childhood memories. It was a nice counterpoint to the string of ballads for which the & quot;boy band & quot; has become famous.

Group member Justin Jeffre asked why more people weren't singing along.

& quot;I know this is an old-school song, & quot; he shouted into his mic as his image was projected on giant video screens that flanked the stage.

& quot;I Wish & quot; is 25 years old, to be exact. It's been around twice as long as some female fans in the crowd.

Nonetheless, 98 Degrees did what member Jeff Timmons had talked about in a pre-concert interview. It showed some of its artistic range while satiating its audience's appetite for love songs set to various tempos.

Fans by the thousands: Gloomy skies and light rain before the 8 p.m. start may have scared off some last-minute attendees, but crowd size was estimated as high as 7,000. Once the show began, the only showers were from bubble machines on the ground floor.

The girl-to-guy ratio here was at least four to one. There were plenty of representatives of the junior-high and high school crowds, but the appeal of 98 Degrees attracted college and post-college women, even mothers.

You don't have to be of a certain age to agree that the members of 98 Degrees do their jobs well. Their voices blend so nicely. They have plenty of smooth moves. They're so easy on the eyes, especially ever-smiling Drew Lachey. They've achieved a level of confidence and professionalism in live performance that reminds you of other old-school acts that were revered for their showmanship.

Besides & quot;I Wish, & quot; 98 Degrees stretched by performing its exciting Latin-hued dance hit & quot;Give Me Just One Night [Una Noche). & quot;

Four female dancers wearing lacy red outfits added to the flavor by shimmying around the young men.

Showing off strength: Vocal harmony is their strong suit on tape and concert stages. It really showed during & quot;Stay the Night, & quot; from the latest CD & quot;Revelation. & quot;

They covered all the bases by performing & quot;I Do [Cherish You], & quot;The Hardest Thing, & quot; and & quot;My Everything, & quot; the latter written by Jeffre and Nick Lachey.

Lachey dedicated & quot;Because of You & quot; to local fans who have supported them since their first performance in the Mahoning Valley. & quot;I don't know if you guys understand that we would be nothing without you, & quot; he said over the squeals of delighted young women.

Opening acts: PYT, a recent addition to the 98 Degrees tour, danced and sang energetically during its 20 minutes on stage.

PYT's debut on Epic Records, & quot;Down With Me, & quot; has only been in stores for 10 days but seemed to ring familiar to the teen-age set, the same age group to which these Floridians belong. Samples of previous hip-hop and rap hits were evident in songs like & quot;Same Ol' Same Ol, & quot; the first single.

The 98 Degrees concert was the biggest show yet for opening act Bonilla, consisting of Youngstown sisters Mali, 20, Mia, 19, Mic & aacute;l, 17, and Myling, 16.

They've been performing together for eight years and recently moved from performing at the annual Rayen Style Show to opening for new artist Alicia Keys at Nautica Stage in Cleveland.

Identifying closely with the look and sound of Destiny's Child, the quartet demonstrated its knack for playing to the audience in its 20-minute set.




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