LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Three decades into my hypothetical career as a recording artist, I’d probably be lucky to have a vanity label of designer crop tops for ferrets. And that’s where the New Kids On The Block and I differ — and I don’t just mean because their music careers are, like, actually real. It’s been 28 years since NKOTB released their self-titled debut album in 1986, and they’re still playing to packed venues.
On Thursday, July 10, the guys kicked off their four-night “New Kids On The Block: After Dark” run at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood. In case that place sounds familiar, that’s where Britney Spears’ “Britney: Piece Of Me” residency is hosted.
If the night was any indication, a full-on Vegas residency of their own wouldn’t be a bad idea for the all-man boy band — not that that’s any news to them. These four concerts are sort of a test run, a chance at “dipping our toe in,” as member Joey McIntyre put it in a pre-show interview. And as Donnie Wahlberg triumphantly announced midway through the performance, invoking 1989’s “Field Of Dreams”: “We f—ing built it, and you f—ing came!”
The massive, 25-song set list included tracks from all six of the guys’ full-length, non-holiday LPs (sorry ’bout it, Merry, Merry Christmas). And from “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” to “Remix (I Like The),” Joey, Danny, Jordan, Jonathan and Donnie didn’t stop delivering for a hot second.
Some surprise standouts included a remix of “My Favorite Girl” that sampled the “bring the action” line from will.i.am and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout,” a rendition of “Dirty Dancing” that added elements of Nelly’s “Hot In Herre,” and the closing encore mashup of “Hangin’ Tough” with Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” Honestly, though, I’ve got to give it up for “Step By Step,” which included a Salt-N-Pepa “Push It” interlude in the middle. That sh– still kicks, whether it’s 1990 or 2014.
Considering the fact that last night was a Thursday and I was witnessing one of the most iconic pop groups of the late ’80s and early ’90s performing before my very eyes, I clearly had #TBT on the brain. You can only imagine my shock and surprise when the New Kids whipped out a block of throwback cover after throwback cover after throwback cover in the middle of their set list, including George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” and “Faith,” The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” and Prince’s “Kiss.” They even took on the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way,” an act of boy band-ception that was literally everything to be quite honest.
Speaking of which, not only have the two groups toured together as NKOTBSB, but the New Kids’ Jordan Knight has a collaboration album with Backstreet’s Nick Carter called Nick & Knight that will be out on September 2. Already clued in? Well, here’s something you probably don’t have a Google alert set to. During our pre-show interview, Jordan informed me that the lyric video for their first single together, “One More Time,” is dropping on July 15. I just want to make sure all the NKOTB Blockheads out there are as emotionally prepared as possible for this moment.
Anyway, even more than the #TBT vibes, the most palpable feeling in the venue was the eternal love surging forth from the audience to the stage. So many people in the theater were such ride-or-die fans that it’s no wonder why NKOTB member Donnie Wahlberg told me in our pre-show interview: “Credibility with your fans is the most important thing. If we lose our credibility with them, we have nothing. Making them happy is most important.”
Judging by what I witnessed that night, I’d say mission accomplished.