Is it fair to continue calling pop group New Kids on the Block a boy band? At an average age of 44, the guys are actually closer to AARP eligibility than boyhood. Yet, judging by the crowd’s high-pitched squeals and thunderous applause at American Airlines Center Thursday night — a concert broadcast live on Yahoo! Screen — NKOTB may remain forever young.
The group’s current tour, with supporting acts Nelly and TLC, was presented as a boxing match of sorts, complete with a sign-carrying ring girl and a rectangular open “ring” in the center of the arena’s floor. While the stage’s upfront placement brought artists and audience closer, it also meant that, as often as not, the audience was viewing performers’ backsides.
Round One. Rapper Nelly — a man whose Hulk-like arms defy images that his stage name might evoke in gay circles — opened the show. He was joined by a two-man crew and a bevy of bootylicious dancers as he performed biggest his including “Ride Wit Me” and “Hot in Herre.”
Round Two. Dressed in iridescent overalls, TLC (Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas) provided an R&B counterpoint to Nelly’s rap-heavy set. Highlights included a performance “Red Light Special” during which a lucky audience member (or, more likely, an audience plant) was escorted on stage for a sultry lap dance. The duo remembered late band mate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes during a performance of “Waterfalls,” asking the audience to raise their phone lights in the air. And a performance of their timeless man-shaming classic “No Scrubs” brought the crowd to its feet.
Round Three. Collectively known as NKOTB, headliners Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and openly gay member Jonathan Knight took center stage in hooded boxing robes as a recorded ring announcer introduced them one-by-one. The group gave a visually stunning performance that included hydraulic stage stunts, pyrotechnics and an abundance of colorful confetti. The quintet performed a mix of pop songs and ballads from their repertoire including crowd-pleasers “Step By Step” and “Hanging Tough.” They also asked the audience to join them in singing “Happy Birthday” to Wood who celebrated his 46th birthday.
The concert was not short on eye candy, either. Quick-change cameras in the dressing rooms caught the boys in their underwear during a costume change, and McIntyre, the group’s youngest member, showed of his abs during a chest-baring solo.
Overall, the feel-good evening felt much like a college homecoming or a high school class reunion. And, even though the New Kids on the Block may no longer grace the pages of teen magazines, they proved that they still have the right stuff to draw a crowd.
Watch Yahoo!’s 24-hour rebroadcast of the May 14 event here.
— Scott Huffman