It didn't take long for Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Donny Wood and Jon Knight to feel back home in front of screaming New Kids on the Block fans.
"Our first show back was money," the Jordan portion of the Knight brothers says during a recent phone interview in Greenville, S.C., where NKOTB will go onstage later that night.
That's because they took this reunion seriously from the start.
Their last CD before 2008's "Block" was the 1994 release "Face the Music." In the interim, McIntyre and Jordan Knight released solo material, and Wahlberg expanded his acting horizons.
The studio work went well, Knight says, with the five singers embracing current pop and hip-hop stars Ne-Yo, Lady Gaga, Akon, Teddy Riley and Pussycat Dolls for vocal contributions.
He says they added to the NKOTB's pop vibe without changing it.
"We would have done the same sound without the actual artists being featured on our record," Knight says. "(But) I think it does lend some credibility in young people's minds. 'They're mixing it up with the best that today has to offer.' It adds more in people's heads that we're on top of our game."
After the studio work, they began putting in time rehearsing for the live show. "A couple of months," Knight says. "We had time to come up with the show, find our rhythm, come up with who will take lead where in the songs."
He says audiences appear pleased to be reacquainted with the men and their hits, which included three that made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart "I'll Be Loving You Forever" and "Hanging Tough" from 1989 and "Step By Step" from 1990.
"I think our group is successful for a reason, and it's because we have a natural rhythm with each other," Knight says. "We all have different roles that weren't preconceived or made up. It's a natural flow to what our group is. We all fell back to our old roles. What made it work for us then works now, too."
Then, New Kids on the Block filled the Carrier Dome for a show in November 1990.
Knight apologetically reports that he doesn't recall that night specifically.
But he does remember that he'd rather perform in a 6,500-seat arena such as the Onondaga County War Memorial on Thursday night than in a huge stadium, sold-out or not."I wasn't really fond of playing huge places like that," he says. "You felt a disconnect with the crowd, and the sound was horrible, and I don't think people got what they paid for, and I don't think we were getting what we should have for putting out everything up onstage for two hours. I would rather be in an arena or theater than a stadium."
The theaters have been filled by fans who were there 20 years ago, and a new generation, Knight says.
"I am surprised that the younger generation has kind of latched on, and they think we're cool, like their mothers and aunts did," Knight says. "Then I think: 'When I was young, I loved the older groups.' It's not far-fetched, as long as a group keeps its sound fresh or young. A couple of days ago, I was playing 'Four Minutes to Save the World,' Justin (Timberlake) and Madonna and Timbaland. To me, it doesn't matter how old Madonna is."
And in the arena, they will have no shame about being five guys approaching 40 who call themselves New Kids on the Block.
"None whatsoever," Knight says. "We got asked that same question when we were all turning 20 years old. 'What are you going to call yourself now that you can buy a drink at the bar?' It's a sound. New Kids on the Block. It's who we are. The Beach Boys never changed their name."
Mark Bialczak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 470-2175. His blog "Listen Up" is at blog.syracuse.com/listenup.