Hangin' Tough & Holding On: NKOTBSB Was a Tween Dream Finally Realized, Friday Night at the Tacoma Dome"/>
Friday, July 8
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Seattle being the pioneering tastemaker of music that it is, I don't know how this statement will reflect on my music-critic cred, but here you go: Back in 1990 when I was 12, I was a fan of the New Kids. Joey was my favorite, I had all three of their albums, and their peppy-yet-soulful boy-band schmaltz was the zenith of my pop-radio taste. It's a long time since then; shortly thereafter I stopped wearing my ponytail to the side (in a scrunchie, no less) and discovered the Smiths. But as I headed for the Tacoma Dome Friday night for the combined New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys show, I was taken back to a time when crimping my hair and tight-rolling my jeans were my only cares.
For company, I brought along my own personal NKOTB historical consultant: a good friend who rose religiously every Saturday morning to record the NKOTB cartoon on VHS (still has the tapes) and actually saw the New Kids in concert during their heyday. We entered the dome in a stream of fans and were immediately caught up in a churning tide of women. Girls were everywhere: teenagers with handmade signs and coordinated outfits; whole generations of moms, sisters, and daughters; group upon group of excited, chattering BFFs. Occasionally a fish-out-of-water boyfriend would surface and I had to look away, their presence being too awkward to behold. This, after all, was a night for the ladies--ladies each with their own New Kid or Backstreet Boy fantasy--and boyfriends were just chauffeurs.
The show began around 8:30 with a video montage of the two groups followed by a dramatic pyrotechnic explosion revealing the NKOTBSB crew on an elevated platform above the stage. The crowd screeched to a deafening, singular roar and the 2 1/2 hour experience that followed was an acutely choreographed production, with both groups (BSB minus Kevin Richardson) trading off songs one or two at a time. There was the whole slew of hits--everything from "The Right Stuff" (featuring that signature side-shuffle dance), "Hangin' Tough," and "Step by Step" to BSB's "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," "Shape of My Heart," and "I Want It That Way" made an appearance, in addition to a number of mashups between the groups. The nine guys performed to exhausting lengths, throwing in a little striptease action for good measure: Nick Carter's groin got friendly with a mike stand, Howie Dorough's glutes did some flexing, and, as my friend had hoped, Donnie Wahlberg's washboard abs made multiple appearances. The estrogen-fueled crowd went wild for it every time.
I was left with a few surprising impressions on the long, slow exit out of the stadium. First, you don't see this kind of turnout for a Color Me Badd reunion tour--the traffic was backed up to Fife, the parking lot was sold out, and the dome was packed near capacity. Repackaging old songs with a bit of new material, hardworking showmanship, and their same old sex appeal, NKOTBSB have captured the hearts of new fans--and kept the hearts of their oldest ones. My expectations far exceeded, I found my old New Kids crush rekindled--though on a different New Kid this time. Earlier in the show, when Donnie stripped off a skimpy white T-shirt and strutted downstage, my jaw dropped and I looked at my friend, who was reading my mind. "You can't have Donnie, you bitch!" she said menacingly, "He's my boyfriend!"
Best line-o-the-night: "I smell so many beautiful women, it damn sure smells like Tacoma, Washington!" -- Donnie Wahlberg addressing the crowd.