Of all of the girly-girl concerts that have come through Riverbend – and there have been plenty in the last few years, whether it’s Tim McGraw, Coldplay or the Jonas Brothers – Saturday night’s New Kids on the Block reunion show has to be the girliest of them all.
The reunited singing and dancing quintet brought down a roughly ¾-filled house as if it were the late-‘80s, when the New Kids were pioneering the white-R&B brand of the boy-band thing during their first go-around.
Last year the group released “The Block,” its first album of new material in 14 years, and it’s marked with a more sophisticated sound that’s to be expected of guys – Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood, and brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight – who now are in or are approaching their 40s. Joey McIntyre is the baby at 36.
Their nearly two-hour set mixed tunes from “The Block” with 20-year-old hit ballads and up-tempo anthems. It meshed well, and nobody in the crowd ever chose to sit down.
McIntyre took a solo turn at the piano for a new song called “Five Brothers and a Million Sisters,” which celebrates the ongoing success of the reunion in terms of a performer-audience partnership. The numbers in the title seem accurate. Several thousand of those million sisters were at Riverbend. Most were probably in there 30s, along with a scattering of ladies who could be a New Kid mom and girls who could be a daughter. Dudes were scarce.
The audience was rewarded time and again with the New Kids’ scream-inducing go-to maneuvers. These included various crotch-related activities – thrusting, grabbing, etc. – and the removal of suit jackets and dress shirts to get to the coveted undershirt.
You didn’t need to be a sociologist to be captivated by grown-ups in the crowd reverting to their screamy-and-sobby teenage selves. Some of these women probably have mortgages, meaningful jobs, aging parents, and children of their own. So it was nice to see them shedding tears over the things that are truly important in life, such as Jonathan Knight doing a knee-drop for the finale of the 1988 ballad “Please Don’t Go Girl.”
While most of the ballads effectively hit home with the crowd in a similar emotion-laden manner, it was the up-tempo stuff that carried the show. “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Hangin’ Tough” were the bookends for the set, and in between came, among others, new ones called “Dirty Dancing” (“It’s so crazy, she’s like Baby, I’m like Swayze,” they sang) and “Single,” during which the guys ran into the crowd and sang from different locations in the pavilion.
They also took care of a piece of business that seemed inevitable. In an interview with the Enquirer last week, McIntyre named the Jackson Five as an influence on his band, and in the wake of Michael Jackson’s death two days earlier, a tribute at the show was a sure bet.The New Kids left the stage halfway through the show as a montage of Jackson photographs played on the video screen and the four-piece backing band performed Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” The New Kids returned, and Wahlberg introduced a sped-up rendition of the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There,” saying: “We’re gonna take three minutes and celebrate a man who inspired us and so many other people.” Later, Walhberg busted out some of Michael’s dance moves, including a pretty good moonwalk, as the band played “Billie Jean.”