WHEN: Saturday night
WHERE: Tacoma Dome
After a 15-year hiatus from the road, New Kids on the Block still have the right stuff. The pioneering boy band that stole the hearts of young, female fans with romantic ballads and heart-pumping R&B songs nearly two decades ago brought awed looks, grins, tears and even panting and screaming from a predominantly female audience Saturday night at the Tacoma Dome.
With attendance at about 12,000, the Dome was far short of its full capacity of 23,000. But it was a loud, enthusiastic crowd energized by dozens of "ohmygod" moments.It had been nearly 20 years since the group rocked the Puyallup Fair grandstand in its first big Northwest show - in September 1989. Some in the Audience Saturday were too young to have been there, even as infants.
The evening began with a colorful but overwrought opening set by New York's geographically challenged Lady Gaga (she kept yelling, "Hello, Seattle!") and a classy, powerful show by English singer Natasha Bedingfield (who sang "Pieces of Your Heart" and her recent hit single "Unwritten") .
New Kids on the Block opened with the new song "Single" (from the current album "The Block") accompanied by plumes of stage fog. Concertgoers, cheering, screaming, waving and swaying back and forth, held up their lighted cell phones.
Throughout the show, fans were all-too-eager to participate in sing-alongs and other crowd-participation drills. The Boston-based band -- Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood (who entertained the audience with his break-dancing) and brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight -- looked great in an ever-changing array of clothing and accessories in the beautifully choreographed show.
Wahlberg also sported multi-colored Red Sox caps, one of many Boston sports references in the colorful, high-powered concert.
The show packed a huge emotional punch for fans, though it occasionally bogged down with a surfeit of heavy-hearted ballads. Providing eye candy were a giant LED screen, two smaller hanging video screens and a multi-level stage that featured an Erector-set upper deck accessible by stairs. Accompanying the band were four musicians and a crew of dancers.
The opening sequence, with all members lined up in front of microphone stands, included "My Favorite Girl," "(You Got It) The Right Stuff," a pyrotechnics- enhanced "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" (with everyone wearing fedoras and sport jackets) and the plaintive "Please Don't Go Girl."
After another new song, the tepid "Grown Man," Wahlberg hollered "Tacoma!" at the top of his lungs for the delirious, foot-stomping crowd.
Jordan Knight and McIntyre traded vocals on the melancholy "If You Go Away," which featured images of beloved celebrities and family members who have passed on -- from Frank Sinatra, Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. to Wahlberg's father and Wood's mother.
One of the show's more interesting, up-close-and- personal segments was a trio of songs -- "2 in the Morning," "Dirty Dancing" and "Tonight" -- performed from a circular, rotating satellite stage in the middle of the main floor. In a heartfelt moment, Wood dedicated "Tonight" to his late mother, who died of breast cancer nine years ago, and asked fans to join the fight for a cure via the band's Web site. New Kids on the Block returned to the main stage for an explosive version of "Twisted" (with four female dancers), followed by "Baby, I Believe in You," "Give It To You," "Stay the Same" and "Cover Girl," which Wahlberg introduced to squealing fans by saying, "I need a friend. In fact, I need a female friend." The final segment featured all five members in white outfits, singing the gushy "I'll Be Loving You," followed by the sexy "Click Click Click" and the wistful single, "Summertime, " which closed the main set. Too bad they didn't complete the winter wonderland theme with "Funky, Funky Christmas."
The band's encore featured the spirited "Step by Step" (accompanied by a hail of sparks) and "Hangin' Tough," interjected with "We Will Rock You" in a loud, Fourth of July finish. It was an impressive comeback for a group that once played stadiums, such as the Kingdome in 1990. Whether the group will continue to evolve and mature with its audience remains to be seen. Could they become New Men on the Block?