VANCOUVER - Though pop music historians may quibble, citing the Beatles, the Monkees, the Bay City Rollers or the Jackson 5 as the original boy band, there's no denying that New Kids on the Block created the mould for the modern Boy Band as we know it.
The five young men from Boston took the world by storm in the '80s and early '90s, dazzling preteen girls with syncopated dance moves, harmonious falsettos and a vague whiff of clean-shaven, formless sexuality. As with every boy band that would come after, each had their own assigned role, a specific flavour to cover all spectrums of girlish tastes; Donnie Wahlberg - the group's bit of rough- brought an interest in rap music that mainly showed itself through 'do rags and gold chains; Joey McIntyre was the youngest, baby-faced heartthrob, Jordan Knight was The Voice, a handsome talent with a shock of Pre-Raphaelite curls gelled into a pompadour. Jon Knight, the older brother, was "the quiet one", who contributed little except backing vocals and a dreamy facial expression on to which any number of romantic notions could be grafted.
Then there was Danny Wood, arguably the most forgettable member, the most neglected when it came time for smitten fans to gaze lovingly at their NKOTB pillowcases.
However far into the background he blended, it's easy to conjure the visage of Wood when he calls from Denver, on the phone to talk about the New Kids on the Block: Live reunion tour, which stops in town the Friday. It's the first time the group has been together in some 14 years, despite a few MTV-aided attempts to reform the fivesome in 1999 and 2004.
"The false starts that we had weren't any of our ideas," says Wood, in a thick Bostonian accent. "They were for other people or the network's benefit. There was an agreement between us that we would only do it if all of us wanted to. And this is based on music, I mean, Donny had a song for me to listen to, which is "Click, Click Click", the lead track off the new album, and I loved it, so that was the start. We went into the studio on our own, and Donnie financed a lot of the beginning, with the studios and photoshoots we did. And we did it ourselves until we started getting some interest from labels, and people started getting interest, and it was like a snowball effect."
The resulting album, The Block , debuted at number 1 on the Billboard Top Pop Album charts. Artistically, it's not so far away from anything from their \late '80s heydey. First single "Summertime" could stand next to "I'll Be Loving You (Forever) and the aforementioned "Click, Click Click" is a sexy slow-jam that proves the Kids still want to make the girls swoon. New songs may abound but Wood promises their two hour show will makes sure everyone gets a chance to indulge in a little New Kids nostalgia.
"We get to do a lot of new stuff," says Wood. "But no one leaves the show saying 'I wanted to hear that song or I wanted to hear that song.'"
It may be the case that they're out to satisfy fans with older songs, but there's one classic that the group just won't play.
"I didn't want to do "This One's for the Children. I thought at the time we recorded it, it was really contrived, and I didn't like it, and it wasn't one of the things I was proud of. So what we did is, we were at a listening party for the new record and we asked the fans would you be disappointed if you didn't hear "This One's For the Children", and actually, no one said anything," says Wood with a laugh.
And speaking of children, it might disappoint some New Kids fans that four of the five are married with kids themselves. Wood, now 39, has four kids- twin sons aged 16 and two daughters aged 10 and nine - the perfect age for boy band consumption. Does Wood mind his daughters getting caught up in the hype of boy bands that have followed in the New Kids' footsteps?
"My 10 year-old has a crush on Joe McIntyre. It was her first real crush. She was into the Jonas Brothers before, and I'd rather have her like Joe Mac that the Jonas Brothers. It's cute!" He says, indicating that perhaps he knows the charms of his re-united group. "It's harmless and it's cute."
Special to the Sun
AT A GLANCE
New Kids on the Block