New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys bring Nashville a night of pop nostalgiaPosted in Concert Review
New Kids on the Block, Backstreet Boys bring Nashville a night of pop nostalgiaIt’s a familiar scene at any concert by Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers: scattered among the sea of screaming teens and tweens are their poor parents, sitting through the shrieks with their hands either covering their ears or clenching a cold beverage.
Some very different scenes played out at the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys concert at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena Tuesday night: elementary school-aged kids sitting in their seats while mom and her friends made the aisles shake with their dance moves.
The nearly sold-out show proved there is indeed life for teen-pop stars after that inevitable fall from the top of the charts. And for these two acts, billed together as “NKOTBSB,” that life might actually be better than ever.
“Nashville! We love you too,” New Kids’ Donnie Wahlberg said after the house lights were turned up to illuminate those squealing fans, who were almost exclusively female and somewhere between the ages of 25 and 40.
Though both New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys were once synonymous with teen pop, teenagers are few and far between in these acts’ audiences today. It’s been a good 20 years since NKOTB’s pop heyday. The group broke up amid a backlash in 1994 — the year Justin Bieber was born — and didn’t reunite until 2008. The Backstreet Boys have remained in action for 18 years, but it’s been a good decade since their popular peak.
The merging of the two groups into NKOTBSB brings this tour its extra jolt of excitement, turning what could have been another nostalgia show into a supersized pop revue.
The members of both acts all took the stage at once at the start of show, performing a mash-up of two of their more recent tunes to the backing of Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.” From there, they became a non-stop musical tag team: NKOTB would wrap up “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” on one end of the stage, and the Backstreet Boys would magically appear on the other, launching into “Larger Than Life.” The energy didn’t wane until an extended interlude of ballads from both groups.
The ballads — particularly syrupy NKOTB slow jams like “Please Don’t Go Girl” — haven’t aged as well as their upbeat numbers. And now that all but one of the New Kids are in their 40s, those falsettos sound palpably challenging to nail. But the break gave the two groups a chance to pull some fans onstage to sit on stools for that inevitable one-on-one serenade. The fans had the chance to prove they’d grown up too, for the most part staying remarkably composed during the tunes — one casually snapped photos of Backstreet’s Nick Carter as he handed her a rose.
Then again, the crowd positively lost it when both acts ventured into the stands on separate occasions. With the help of bodyguards, the singers were all able to return to the stage without having their shirts ripped off. (Wahlberg handled his own shirt destruction, in a move that would have made his brother, the once famously shirt-shy “Marky” Mark Wahlberg, proud.)
Both bands got increasingly chatty as the night wore on, and between the profuse thank yous and introductions of each member, the Backstreet Boys proved to be very familiar with Music City. Nashville-area resident Nick Carter told the crowd he lived a short drive away, while A.J. McLean asked who wanted to meet up at local bar the Tin Roof. At the show’s end, when the groups donned Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic jerseys representing their cities of origin, Backstreet’s Brian Littrell instead wore the jersey of Tennessee Titan Rob Bironas.
Those last moments — which featured the two groups squaring off like some bizarre, boy-band version of West Side Story — packed the biggest thrills for fans. As NKOTB’s “Hangin’ Tough” blended with Backstreet’s “Everybody,” the room erupted in confetti, and soon both groups huddled in a circle/group hug like they’d just won the Super Bowl.
"I believe that we'll never be able to pay you back for everything you've given us over the last 25 years,” NKOTB’s Joey McIntyre told the audience that evening. Judging by the beams on their faces by evening’s end, he and his bandmates will likely be trying to return the favor to fans for years — maybe decades — to come.