NKOTB Still Hanging Tough

I never thought I would be typing this, but I have now seen New Kids On the Block (NKOTB) on their last two tours. I’m not sure if I should be ashamed or admit a growing admiration for this part of pop culture. I’ll admit the first time it was out of curiosity. This time I can’t answer. What I did witness was the phenomenon of NKOTB that continues after 30 years.

It’s easy to give NKOTB. I know I did until recently. I still remember when my little brother at the fraternity was forced to take his tween little sister during the glory days when they came to town. I gave him immortal hell. He sighed deeply and we played pool until it was time for to escort his little sister to the show. I don’t think he’s ever lived it down.

I was never into the boy band stuff – or at least I thought. I live good ole fashioned rock and roll, new wave, punk and alternative. Back in the day the latter was known as “college rock”.

It wasn’t until show time that I realized I was an old school boy band aficionado. No, I’m not talking about ‘80s and ‘90s boy bands that is what most people think of when they hear the term, but way back. You might be surprised to find out you were one as well.

What is a boy band? Of course it is a band of boys (young men). They sing and dance choreographed numbers all in harmony. Sound familiar yet? Since the beginning of popular music there have been “boy bands”, although the term wasn’t readily used until NKOTB, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC – you get the idea took over the radio as well as MTV (back when there was such a thing). The Impression, Four Tops, The Spinners, The Miracles and The Jackson 5, who were referred to at the time as vocal groups were original boy bands. A boy band or vocal group sings but they don’t play an instrument. They either have a backing band or sing and dance choreographed numbers to prerecorded music (tracks). Yep, your parents and grandparents were most likely fans of a “boy band” back in the day.

Once I took that into consideration, I softened my stance on NKOTB and the groups that followed. That doesn’t mean I’m a big fan, but I respect what they do more. There is also the phenomenon around them that I didn’t understand. But then again our parents didn’t understand The Beatles, The Monkees or even Duran Duran and the way young girls acted whenever they came to their town to perform either on TV or concert.

This year it was the Mixtape Tour. There was a bunch of people with NKOTB. Talk about your ‘80s overdose, Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty By Nature joined the Kids. NKOTB were the main attraction (obviously). They opened and hosted the support acts playing between the other artists, as it was cassette heaven for the majority female crowd in attendance.

Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood began the night on an elevated stage before being lowered and then the party and dancing began – not only NKOTB, but the crowd as well.

It was a visual extravaganza with perfectly choreographed steps, tight harmonies as well as confetti guns and flamethrowers that had the crowd screaming and singing along. The New Kids aren’t exactly that as they range in age now from 46 to AARP range. And while they don’t look new, they had an energy and pep to their step that any kid would be envious of. After a few numbers like “My Favorite Girl” and “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” Tiffany came out for a number and was followed by Gibson, who performed a medley of some of her songs. With multiple stages NKOTB got in the mix with the crowd adding a thrill to the packed house that often included a couple opportunities for the crows to join in on a sing-along or two.

Almost rivaling them in appreciation was Salt-N-Pepa playing a trio of their biggest hits finishing with “Push It” (of course). Naughty By Nature also received a lot of attention as well for their trio of songs. NKOTB also included a medley of ‘80s classics from artists such as Bon Jovi, Cyndi Lauper, Whitney Houston and more. The night finished with a tune called “80s Baby” as NKOTB were joined on stage by Gibson, Tiffany, Salt-N-Pepa, and Naughty By Nature to join in on the song paying homage to the era.

And while I never got appeal initially of NKOTB or boy bands in general, I’ve come to appreciate them and what they do as well as what they mean to their fans. It was a night of good clean fun.

– Dave Weinthal