Entering Viejas Arena on May 26th was like going back in time. Fans lined the amphitheater, dressed in their best 80s attire, exhilarated and antsy to get inside and start witnessing what the new Mixtape Tour would bring! For those who don’t know, this is the second national Mixtape Tour, with the first before the pandemic in 2019. Now back for more, the second installment hit San Diego with full force, rocking the stacked lineup of New Kids On The Block, Salt-N-Pepa, Rick Astley and En Vogue.
There wasn’t a dull moment, even before the show officially started!
As people meandered to their seats, deejays Illtown Sluggaz were hyping up the crowd from a smaller stage in the middle of the arena; everyone immediately inferred the deejays weren’t the only ones who were going to grace that closer, smaller stage that night! Spinning a steady flow of 80s and early 90s jams, Illtown Sluggaz got roars in response — certainly one of the most entertaining opening acts for a pop show I’ve seen in a while! Not to mention the giant teddy bear head the main deejay was sporting, like a softer, cuddlier deadmau5. It wasn’t long after Illtown Sluggaz thanked the crowd and departed before the lights went low and the stars of the Mixtape Tour 2022 took the giant screen behind the main stage. And, this tour didn’t mess around, bringing New Kids On The Block on first!
Like listening to an actual mixtape, the bands alternated every few songs.
That said, the first six NKOTB songs included confetti canons, plumes of smoke, pyrotechnics, fake snow, streamers and laser light beams! Pop stars through and through, these boys danced, sang, costume-changed and even jumped down to take selfies with their (more than) adoring fans. Seriously… they had middle-aged women falling out of their chairs and screaming like little girls the entire time. You can’t blame them though, considering Donnie Wahlberg was barely able to keep his clothes on.
Next up were the still fabulous, R&B icons and vocal powerhouses of En Vogue. Starting with back-to-back mega hits “My Lovin'” and “Free Your Mind”, En Vogue made it clear that they are here to slay. I mean, stay. Er… both. Third in line was America’s favorite meme-ster, Rick Astley! Originally, the setlist indicated Mr. Astley was to come out to “Never Gonna Give You Up”, yet he jumped into “Together Forever” instead; I guess it isn’t a ‘Rick Roll’ if you know it’s coming. Tricky, tricky Ricky…
After Astley’s soulful serenade, NKOTB came out for another round.
Of course, this entailed more confetti, fire and laser LED lighting, leading right into the stage reveal of hip hop’s own Salt-N-Pepa. From “Let’s Talk About Sex” to “Whatta Man” with En Vogue (joining back onstage), these two diva superstars got the whole place singing along to nostalgic classics.
The night continued with even more surprises, as artists traveled through the crowd playing games, Donnie joined Salt-N-Pepa for “Shoop”, “Step By Step” was paired with “Push It” and all celebrated a royal Rick Roll at the end! What a night for pop music!! If you missed out in San Diego, be sure to catch this once-in-a-lifetime tour in a city near you!
Photography by Kristy Rose