Concert review: New Kids on the Block still have the right stuff
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TULSA - When Donnie Wahlberg pulled a grinning preteen girl dressed in an “I Love New Kids on the Block” T-shirt onto the BOK Center stage to serenade her with the peppy love song “Cover Girl,” it was like 1989 all over again. Former boy band New Kids on the Block brought countless musical memories along with their successful reunion tour Monday night to the Tulsa arena.

Wahlberg, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre and Danny Wood showed they still have the synchronized dance moves, smoothly harmonized vocals and seemingly boundless energy they did back in their heyday of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. And their still-fervent fans illustrated they could actually scream even louder than they did back when they were frenzied adolescents cheering on their teen idols.

The din inside the BOK Center often swelled to almost painful levels as the more than 6,000 fans (near capacity for the 6,500-person seating configuration) shrieked for their favorite pop hits from back in the day. The audience included adolescents, children and a surprising number of men. But as expected, the crowd consisted mostly of NKOTB’s core fans – the now-25- to 35-year-old women who as teens and tweens snapped up more than 70 million albums along with myriad T-shirts, posters and pillowcases. Numerous fans again donned New Kids shirts and oversize buttons, and more than a few of those wardrobe choices looked to be ‘90s vintage or homemade. Several even dug out their old 1990 Magic Summer Tour concert Ts from NKOTB’s previous Tulsa show at Skelly Stadium. (That was the first concert I ever attended, so those shirts brought back fond memories for me.)

The former boy band didn’t disappoint fans looking for a powerful nostalgia fix. By the third song, the confident quintet was chanting the catchy chorus and doing the signature dance to one of their biggest hits, “(You Got It) The Right Stuff,” prompting deafening squeals of joy and the echoing refrain of “oh, oh, oh, oh” from the crowd.

They pulled out most of their infectious old dance-pop favorites and sweet bubblegummy ballads - “My Favorite Girl,” “Step by Step,” “If You Go Away,” “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” – and the fans gleefully danced, waved their arms or swayed to each song. If the choreography and vocals weren’t always quite as honed as they used to be, the vast majority of the audience didn’t seem to notice or care. Jordan Knight proved he could still hit the falsetto notes on “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) and showed off his still toned physique as he crooned “Baby I Believe in You” in the same fashion he did back in ’90, with his white button-down shirt open and blowing in the breeze from a wind machine.

Still baby-faced McIntyre, now 36 and often called Joe instead of Joey, also established that he still has a strong, clear voice and plenty of charisma, whipping the audience into a furor when he dropped to his knees to plead “Please Don’t Go Girl.” With the help of a sexy female dancer, he illustrated some sharp moves from his time on Broadway and the reality show “Dancing with the Stars” on the provocative “Twisted.”

Wahlberg again provided the Boston bravado, leading the way on the hip-hop throwback “Games.” Fit and athletic, Wood, who turns 40 in May, performed an impressive break-dancing routine. Jonathan Knight was still the quiet one,staying firmly out of the spotlight, hitting his dance steps just so and doing the camera work when the group enticed the audience into a little dance-off.

But the show wasn’t just like the old days. The New Kids performed several songs from their 2008 album “The Block,” including “Click Click Click,” “Dirty Dancing” “Grown Man” and “Summertime.”

The former boy band’s new hip-hop-infused pop songs feature more suggestive music and lyrics than their old hits, giving the show a more adult tone that was a bit inappropriate for the youngsters in the crowd .. The singers gyrated with their quartet of skimpily clad backup dancers, while fans tossed bras onstage and waved innuendo-laden signs. McIntyre at one point asked the wildly enthusiastic crowd “Is it me or do people drink more beer in Tulsa?”

One of the highlights of the show came when the quintet appeared out in the floor-level crowd, perched on a moving platform that also held a piano. The quintet crooned a pair of their new ballads, the heartfelt “2 in the Morning” and “Single,” dancing around the piano while McIntyre plunked the keys. They then burst into the relentlessly bouncy throwback “Tonight,” which Wahlberg guaranteed would weed out any remaining non-NKOTB fans. “We’re having a great time out here,” McIntyre told the crowd. “We can’t say enough about what you’ve done for us in the past year.”

Though many have dubbed the reunited group the not-so-New Kids, NKOTB provided two hours of nearly nonstop entertainment, complete with several wardrobe changes as well as old and new coordinated dance routines. By the time they ended the energetic show with a rousing rendition of “Hangin’ Tough,” with a bit of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” thrown in, the singers were grinning like schoolboys, and their fans were beaming right back at them.

The show started out with an electric performance by opening act JabbaWockeeZ. The masked dance troupe, which has appeared on the TV shows “America’s Got Talent” and “America’s Best Dance Crew,” wowed the crowd with athletic, synchronized and often funny hip-hop routines.