“It took us 14 years but we did it,” a girl said to her friend, as waves of women filed out of the IZOD center in East Rutherford, NJ, last night after nearly three hours of musical time travel (two stops: 1989 and 1999) courtesy of NKOTBSB, a.k.a. New Kids on the Block + Backstreet Boys.
It hadn’t been long since I last indulged my inner teen; I attended my fourth Backstreet Boys concert at Hammerstein Ballroom last year. But last night’s supergroup affair was, frankly, super. And though the crowd was comprised of more New Kids fans than Backstreet, it didn’t damper the show.
I had heard of some tour stops turning sour because of fan wars, but there was no such pettiness last night—thanks mostly, I believe, to the concert’s structure. After a intro with both groups, New Kids came on stage with “Summertime,” and Backstreet followed with “The Call.” Then New Kids returned with “Dirty Dancing” and so on. The tag-team performances were jarring at first, but if in doing so their intention was to bridge the gap, then mission accomplished. This Backstreet fan left the show a little bit more of a New Kids fan than I was when I walked in.
Meanwhile, each tune was performed with the same energy, crotch-grabbing, and hip-thrusting that turned these groups into teens sensations years ago—and it’s that same formula that seems to work even today. Well, at least it worked on the crowd last night. And most seemed also to enjoy the cameo by New Jersey’s own Naughty by Nature. It mostly left me scratching my head in confusion, however.
In the end, it was an exciting ride through pop history. Both groups reached into their musical pasts (NKOTB unleashed 1988’s “Please Don’t Go,” while BSB turned the clock back to 1995 for “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”) And it was a ride fans happily took with the once – and, for some, current – objects of their deepest affections. One fan in particular was not shy about her intentions and held up a sign that read: “I’m Legal Now!” Others, chose to make it a family affair. I’m sure the four-year-old propped up on her father’s shoulders as her mother took pictures of Donnie’s shaking rump will remember the moment forever. I know I will.
Other notable moments:
* Jordin Sparks’ opening number. Though much of the crowd had yet to be seated, the onetime American Idol champion, drenched from head to toe in sparkles, fringe, and sequins, delivered a winning performance.
* Donnie Wahlberg ripping his black tank top in half, like he was a comic book character morphing into a creature. Amazing.
* New Kids’ use of the full stage. Five-guy advantage.
* Backstreets’ performance of a lesser-known hit from their early days, “10,000 Promises.”
* Backstreet bringing lucky fans on stage for “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”
* Whalberg happily submitting his backside to fans’ slaps. See photo here.
* “Don’t Turn Off the Lights.”
* Naughty By Nature joining both groups on stage. Video coming soon.
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