98 Degrees heating up the holidays at Virginia Theatre

98 Degrees heating up the holidays at Virginia Theatre

CHAMPAIGN — OK, you've got to give 98 Degrees credit for being on time — even about a month early, for a Christmas concert.

The boy band is now sort of middle-aged and had a long hiatus away from each other, but has a full night planned for Wednesday at the Virginia Theatre.

Co-founder Jeff Timmons said he grew up in a family that loved Christmas, and that spirit has never left him.

And the other three members agree the music is a good match for them.

"We've always had good Christmas fun," Timmons said. "It gives us the four-part harmony we need. A lot of it is classical choral music."

And it gives every member a full workout.

"Everyone has a part in all the songs, not a bit of hook like in a pop song," he said.

From the two Christmas albums by 98 Degrees, Timmons' favorite is "O Holy Night," but it's not in this year's show.

"We're always trying to up the energy, and that doesn't always fit," he said. "Especially our version, we don't want audiences to start snoozing."

Timmons' original goal was to be a pro football player, "But I'm too vertically challenged and too slender.

"Go Tigers!" is a documentary about the Tigers of Massillon, Ohio, the football-obsessed town where he grew up.

A psych major at Kent State, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was the star of a commercial for the U.S. Navy.

But his main interest was music.

Timmons, Justin Jeffre and brothers Drew and Nick Lachey formed the band and were originally signed to the Motown label in the mid-1990s.

In 1997, they released their first single, "Invisible Man," which peaked at No. 12.

Over the next five years, 98 Degrees sold 10 million records, including a collaboration with idol Stevie Wonder.

2000's "Revelation" sold 2 million copies and had three hits, "Give Me Just One Night (Una Noche)," "My Everything" and "The Way You Want Me To."

On Sept. 10, 2001, Timmons remembered, the band played as part as of the "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Celebration."

As with all of us, the next day shocked the band, Timmons said, and after a string of hits and too many concerts "in a cutthroat business," 98 Degrees took about a decade off.

"It just seemed like the time," he said.

Timmons stayed friends with his band and his contemporaries, he said.

He even starred in "Dead 7," a zombie horror western film written by Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys.

Quite a contrast from Christmas. The band's newest (2017) is "Let It Snow," a 14-song collection that includes the new song "Season of Love."

Timmons is proud of it.

"It's been a while since Mariah Carey did 'All I Want for Christmas Is You' and was the last pop Christmas song able to stand the test of time," Timmons said. "Ours did well on the holiday charts."

The album also includes "What Christmas Means To Me," "Please Come Home For Christmas" and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run."

If you go

What: 98 Degrees

When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Virginia Theatre, 203 W. Park Ave., C

Tickets: $49.50 to $99.50.

Info: 217-356-9063 and https://thevirginia.org/event/98o-at-christmas/

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