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Review: The Theatre at Westbury heats up to 98 Degrees for holiday show (Includes first-hand account)

Backed by a talented three-piece band, 98 Degrees began their set with the catchy “Season of Love,” where they were dressed in maroon suits, and it was followed by “Christmas Wish,” which showcased their smooth vocals, as well as “Because of You.” “Long Island, sing it with us,” Nick Lachey said, and the audience obeyed his command.

“All right, Westbury, how are we doing?” Drew Lachey asked, and they went on to perform “Invisible Man,” which was the first song they ever recorded that was released on Motown Records.

“Long Island, how are you feeling tonight? Nick asked, and they went on to sing “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” where Jeff Timmons displayed his impressive falsetto, while his fellow band-mates soared on the harmonies.

Equally remarkable was their perennial love ballad “I Do (Cherish You).” An added treat was the inclusion of Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe” in their set, which was an upbeat, modern tune.

They also dusted off The Chipmunks classic “Christmas Don’t Be Late,” and gave it their own distinct twist to it, which was well-received by all. They threw some doo-wop in the mix with “Frosty The Snowman,” thus taking their fans on a trip down memory lane to the ’50s.

Justin Jeffre showcased his rich, baritone vocals on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” and seeing the other members of 98 Degrees act it out was witty and fun.

They tipped their hat to pop queen Mariah Carey with her Christmas standard “All I Want for Christmas is You,” where Nick Lachey nailed the lead vocals, and they threw gifts into the audience during this tune. (Speaking of Mariah Carey, 98 Degrees shares a 2001 Grammy nomination with her and Joe for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” for “Thank God I Found You”).

After a brief intermission, and an outfit change (into flannel shirts), they kicked off the second half of their show with “Little Saint Nick.” They immediately broke into the up-tempo “Run Run Rudolph,” where they had the fans clapping along, and they made Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Brenda Lee proud with their endearing rendition of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.”

They did Darlene Love justice with a powerhouse version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” where everybody was reciting the lyrics verbatim. This certainly was one of the highlight classics of the night.

Jeff Timmons serenaded the audience to “Silent Night” in a soothing fashion, and “This Christmas” was an expressive performance.

They picked up the pace with “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” while “Please Come Home for Christmas” was heartfelt and nostalgic. After “What Christmas Means to Me,” they delivered a glorious version of “True To Your Heart” from the Mulan soundtrack.

“Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)” was an up-tempo dance-pop anthem, and they closed with “Feliz Navidad” and their own holiday standard, “This Gift.”

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For their encore, they returned with “The Hardest Thing,” which is one of this journalist’s all-time favorite 98 Degrees songs, as well as on a fitting note with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

“The 98 Degrees ‘At Christmas Tour’ put me into the holiday spirit. I hope it continues to become an annual tradition,” said Stephanie DeVage, loyal fan and attendee.

The Verdict

Overall, 98 Degrees were superb at The Theatre at Westbury, and they delivered a magical live performance. They took their fans on a musical journey, and their show encompassed elements of such diverse genres as pop, rock, R&B, jazz, doo-wop, adult contemporay and dance music. Nick Lachey, Drew Lachey, Jeff Timmons, and Justin Jeffre are still at the top of their game vocally, and their choreography was solid throughout the night.

98 Degrees truly is The Temptations equivalent of our generation meets the vocal prowess of Australian vocal group Human Nature, coupled with the soulfulness of Boyz II Men. They are worth seeing in concert whenever they come to town. One will not be disappointed. Their live Christmas show at Westbury earned five out of five stars.

To learn more about the Grammy-nominated group 98 Degrees, check out their official website.

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