New Kids still make the ladies swoon/Boy band coming to Charlotte, NC
By ALAN SCULLEY
For the Herald-Journal
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a New Kids on the Block concert could basically be described as pandemonium, with arenas packed with (mostly) teen-aged girls screaming to every note the five singers sang and every movement they made on stage.
Two decades later, the same quintet of Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight and Joey McIntyre is back performing in arenas and outdoor amphitheaters. But so many years down the road, one would assume a New Kids concert would have evolved into a gentler, less shrieky affair.One would be wrong with that assumption.“They're really not that different, other than age,” Wahlberg said of the group's fans. “They're just as frenzied, just as loud and just as excited. I think we are, too. I think if I can say this, that the X factor in all of it is we're all older and we appreciate it much more, the band and the fans.”The return of New Kids on the Block has already turned into a more extended reunion than many expected. Reconvening after a 13-year break in 2008, the group has followed up its 2008 album “The Block” with its second post-reunion album “10” in April and is now back on tour (with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees opening) and still showing arena-filling drawing power.In its first go-around, from 1984 to 1994, the New Kids sold a combined 80 million copies of its four albums worldwide. The group rejected many big-money offers to reunite after its breakup, with Wahlberg often credited as the New Kid who balked at these opportunities.Wahlberg, in his post-New Kids life, had enjoyed a successful acting career, with roles in such high-profile films as “Ransom” and “The Sixth Sense” He currently stars in the CBS television drama “Blue Bloods” and is staying with the show even as New Kids continues to record and tour.He had consistently maintained he wouldn't do a New Kids reunion simply for the money. There had to be a legitimate musical/creative reason for the group to exist again.That incentive surfaced when Wahlberg heard the song “Click, Click, Click,” and thought the breezy, hip-hop-laced ballad was just right for New Kids.“I think emotionally, I was looking for something different, a different way to express some things I was dealing with,” said Wahlberg, who was going through a divorce at the time. “And I found the song (“Click, Click, Click”). I think when all of the other guys were gung ho (about the song), we took the first step.”As with “The Block,” the spark for making the “10” album was Wahlberg hearing a song – this time “Remix (I Like The).”“I loved it instantly,” he said. “And that song had been sitting around for three years. Nobody wanted it. I couldn't believe it.”The process of making “10,” though, was markedly different than for “The Block.”“I'd say ‘The Block' album was more sort of me sort of leading the pack and sort of staying in the studio and writing and working with the different producers (including Redone and Akon),” Wahlberg said.“With this album, the other guys were around (to help choose and develop the songs). I was very satisfied creatively and emotionally on ‘The Block' album,” Wahlberg said. “I think this album's process really helped us to be creatively and emotionally satisfied more as a unit, and I think that's really important.”“10” has a different feel from “The Block.” The latter album mixed a strong dose of hip-hop rhythms and production with the light pop sound that defined the early New Kids albums. On “10,” the hip-hop influence is less dominant. The group shifts to big pop-styled beats on mid-tempo tunes like “We Own Tonight” and “Wasted On You,” while even airy ballads like “Jealous” and “Take My Breath Away” have an epic quality. The wild card is “Remix,” a rocking track with a thumping beat and hooky vocal melody.“A lot of the songs sort of have an anthemic, arena sound to them. And we thought about that,” Wahlberg said. “When we connected with a song, we would visualize how is this song going to play in an arena? How is it going to play on tour?”The group is finding out how the new songs translate live now that the tour with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees has started.In a major twist, the New Kids are performing in the round on this tour. For a group that usually performs at the front of the stage around its five microphones, this meant re-thinking how to play to the crowd.“We're still doing the classic five-microphone-stand look, but we've re-imagined and did a lot to not have our backs to anybody in the arena very much.” Wahlberg said. “We don't want to be excluding half of the audience really at any point in the show. So we had to do a lot of sort of crafty planning and use pretty much everything in our repertoire, and we have. It's been a great challenge. It's really given the show a lot of new life.”