BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – A couple of days before the Super Bowl, Donnie Wahlberg talked about what fans can expect on the summer New Kids on the Block/Paula Abdul/Boyz II Men tour.
On Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton, scene of the annual Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala, the diminutive Abdul happily shared the backstory about her involvement with “The Total Package Tour,” which will play Infinite Energy Center in Duluth July 14.
“This man,” she said, touching the suit-clad arm of the fellow standing next to her on the red carpet, “Larry Frazin, who was my first manager when I was starting out with my music. I was itching to (go on tour) but there were a lot of other things I was working on. About two years ago he said, ‘It’s time for you to go back out.’”
Before committing to her first full outing in 25 years (she last played Atlanta in 1991 at The Omni), Abdul did a dry run with NKOTB, Boyz II Men and other ‘80s/‘90s acts at the Mixtape Festival at Pennsylvania’s Hersheypark Stadium last August.
“I literally was dumbfounded,” she said of the crowd’s reaction. “I didn’t know if people would respond and it was overwhelming. So now I’m doing it. I’m excited about it.”
To prepare for the three-month tour, Abdul said she is going to be physically training and mentally preparing.
“I’m changing my diet. I’m getting into that mode of taking really good care of myself,” she said, joking that she’s going to be the only female on tour “with eight big brothers!”
The singer/dancer is planning several months of grueling workouts, much like she did when she toured in the early ‘90s.
“This young guy that no one knew – Billy Blanks, remember him, the Tae Bo guy? He was teaching little kids karate (at the time) and he was my trainer. (We would go) to the bottom of Ventura Boulevard and Beverly Glen. We started walking and jogging and singing my songs and he had this stick and would poke me and he’s going, ‘Do I need to do that again?’” Abdul said, laughing at the memory.
She was one of dozens of celebrities attending this year’s soiree, which honored BET Networks Chairman and CEO Debra L. Lee. The steady flow of stars heading into the Beverly Hilton included Stevie Wonder, Chance the Rapper, Enya, Neil Diamond, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Kathy Griffin, John Legend, DNCE, Paris Jackson, Britney Spears and Lars Ulrich, who talked about Metallica’s impending tour announcement.
The gala also welcomed Joni Mitchell, who has rarely been seen since she suffered a brain aneurysm in March 2015. According to Billboard, Mitchell, who was to be serenaded by Judy Collins, was in a wheelchair and escorted by filmmaker Cameron Crowe.