98° bring early Christmas cheer to the Vogue Theatre

98° at the Vogue Theatre, 11/6/18

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Invision – Charles Sykes

The temperature rose inside the Vogue Theatre last night (November 6), but it wasn’t because of global warming. 98° brought early holiday cheer to Vancouver with a special evening of Christmas tunes and of course, ‘90s pop hits.

Nick and Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre released their eponymous debut album, 98°, in 1997. Two years later, they released This Christmas, a collection of covers of their favourite Christmas songs, plus originals. This Christmas remains one of their proudest works, so they commemorated their milestone 20th anniversary with a follow-up collection, last year’s Let It Snow.

Although the Vogue installed seats on the entire floor, fans couldn’t help but stand for several of the group’s best-known hits. On top of “Invisible Man,” “Because of You,” and “I Do (Cherish You),” 98° performed standards including “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and a swingin’ version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” They also shouted out Love Actually, which they called the best holiday movie of all time, with a version of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Despite celebrating the best of Christmas music, 98° felt it was only fair – and just as necessary – to celebrate the worst of it, too. They went all-in on a Chipmunks routine, complete with high-pitched vocals. And depending on how one feels about Justin Bieber, this category also included “Mistletoe.” To 98°, though, they were merely paying tribute to one of the biggest pop stars today while visiting his home country.

Following an intermission, the Lacheys, Timmons, and Jeffre returned. They had swapped their maroon suits for red plaid, leather vests, and leather jackets (and a pocket chain). From this point on, the group picked up the tempo with “What Christmas Means to Me,” on which their keyboardist Roland got to shine, and their collaboration with Stevie Wonder, “True to Your Heart.” Meanwhile, their guitarist Mark got his own moment to shine when he finger-picked his way through nylon strings on “Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche),” which flowed right into “Feliz Navidad.”

For the encore, 98° performed the piano-led “The Hardest Thing” and finally, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Frank Sinatra, bringing a touching end to a nostalgic evening.

98°’s dance moves and routines came straight out of a boy band playbook. They shuffled, spun, and swung their arms in choreographed sequences. They pulled one lucky female fan onstage and took turns getting down on one knee and serenading her while holding her hands. But 98° always set themselves apart from their contemporaries like the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC with their harmonies.

98° lean more towards R&B and soul groups like Boyz II Men. They even showed hints of a barbershop quartet. Sure, both the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC can fill larger venues than 98°, but on this not-so-silent night, the Vogue Theatre provided the perfect setting for 98°’s merry, heartwarming, family-friendly performance.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu