New Kids on the Block
Lynda Moyo witnesses tears, t-shirts and tits at the ultimate boyband reunion
(Londres Enero 2009 )
Dressed in matching white with synced up dances to cheesy songs sung through Colgate teeth, a sea of 8,000 palpitating fans gathered at the MEN Arena for boy band hysteria.
But there’s a twist to this otherwise, identikit appearance. None of them are actually boys anymore and one of them now works in real estate (you can't get less boy band than that).
It’s been 17 years since New Kids on the Block last played in the UK. They are not the first pre-century boy band to come back for round two, but what makes this special is that they were the originals. They were the catalysts for the Backstreet Boys, Westlife, Take That, N Sync and every nameless, faceless and pointless boy band inbetween.
As tough guy (every boy band has a tough guy remember) Donnie Wahlberg accurately pointed out: “This isn’t just a reunion for us. You’re here tonight with a friend you haven’t seen for 15 years. You thought you’d never talk to that bitch again and here you are- at a New Kids concert.”
The re-union has been a long time coming, with Take That, Backstreet Boys and Boyzone already beating them to the post. Kicking off the show with new song ‘Single’ followed by their first song ‘The Right Stuff’, New Kids of past and present merged as though they'd never been away, although there were a few slight differences to the group.
Firstly, pre-pubescent Joey Mcintyre is now Mcintyre the man, and no longer has the Chipmunks squeaky soprano voice. This has resulted in him being unable to sing certain songs in the way we remember. Not that that mattered, as much of the crowd were more interesting in the mature New erm, Kids. As one woman in a 'Donnie-I'm legal now' t-shirt on the front row shouted “Donnie I love you!” to which he replied “I love you too baby. Look at you all grown up now. Do you see a wedding ring on this finger? I’ll meet you after the show.” Then there was front man, Jordan Knight, opening his shirt and collecting phone numbers thrown onto the stage by the dozen. If it weren't for the absence of L-plates this would have been a full-on hen party.
For the song, ‘Tonight’ the group reappeared on a separate stage in the centre of the Arena, which worked for those in the nose bleed section. The change of orientation also resulted in rows of fans standing on their seats much to the horror of the MEN law and order squad. Power hungry stewards tried to assert some crowd control but failed, walking away like defeated matadors as the stampede of frenzied females took full control of the place. One woman even lifted up her top as the camera panned the crowd. 1988 didn't have a patch on this.
In a more subdued and thought provoking moment, to the song ‘If you go away’, a slide show of those ‘we’ve loved and lost’ was shown on the screen. The lengthy footage of deceased musicians, actors, family and friends, underlined the time that has passed. Other memorable songs performed on the night include, ‘Please don’t go girl’, ‘Step by Step’, ‘Games’ and of course the popular ‘Hangin' Tough’. The tunes may be outdated but their voices aren't. These boys can sing and give any modern day boy band a run for their money. So much so that there was a moment when I almost got confused and started singing ‘Backstreets back alright’. Totally wrong song. Totally wrong group.
It was one of those nights that you'd expect to be a little disheartening, after all there's nothing worse in pop terms than a bunch of 80s has-beens taking themselves too seriously in 2009.
However, New Kids on the Block have managed to comeback with a real sense of appreciation for the fans and the support they had back in the day. They put their heart and soul into the performance, enjoying every lousy lyric and dated dance move. There was nothing desperate or arrogant about the full two and half hour set, and even the new material, although not a patch on the old stuff, shows how they're not stuck in a time warp and are genuinely grateful for every minute of their comeback.
As a result the atmosphere in the crowd was charged with female emotion, some sobbing with elation, others screaming 'I had this on 12 inch!' and lastly my own 31-year-old- sister whispering in my ear with a lump in her throat: “Jordan just winked at me.” She's waited two decades for that moment. Long live NKOTB