Last night at the KFC Yum! Center, the musical powerhouses of the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys (aka NKOTBSB) crooned, winked, gyrated and grabbed their crotches to delight of throngs of screaming girls. If ever there was a concert that summed up my adolescence...this was it! I even once had a tear-stained Donnie Wahlberg pillowcase to prove my pubescent allegiance to the New Kids. So, can the boys still sing and dance? Allow me to answer that question with one unequivocally, girly shriek: YES!!!!
Despite the foreboding Groupon deal offering half-off tickets (or perhaps because of it) there was a decent sized crowd at the Yum! Center. I was expecting a stadium full of women my age, making the woeful march towards middle age. Surprisingly, the bulk of the concert attendees were young girls in their late teens and early twenties dressed up in strange rendition of what they thought was 80's fashion.
The evening kicked off with the opening act of Matthew Morrison from the Fox hit-show, Glee. Mr. Schue did a strange assortment of covers performed on the show as well as some original songs. The crowd at the Yum! Center seemed to really enjoy his rendition of Kanye West's “Gold Digger,” but I was underwhelmed. There was something really disturbing about an obvious musical theater-geek, (I can smell my own, people) singing the lyrics: “she ain't messin' wit no broke !@#$%^'.” On the other extreme, Morrison's own songs were sappy and somewhat trite. His whole act just reeked of a cruise ship.
Finally, after much anticipation and a $7.50 beer (really, Yum Center?), all the boys from NKOTBSB took the stage for their opening song. This was a medley of both groups' lesser known singles with some Viva La Vida mixed in. Then the Backstreet Boys left and the New Kids started off a lengthy set list with fan favorite, “Summertime.” I don't know what protein shakes these guys are drinking, but man...they look good. Their washboard abs were highlighted by endless sets of wife-beater shirts in an array of colors. These guys all must have trainers forcing them to run 30 miles a day on treadmills before rigorously pumping iron. Like fine wines and cheese, boy bands only seem to age better with time.
Our front row seats were great and during the New Kids' performance of “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, my brown eyes met with Donnie Wahlberg's. He gave me a two-fingered air kiss, and I giggled coyly, giving him a bemused look. Donnie shot one back at me as if to say “Hey, Emily...thanks for buying that pillowcase with my face on it back in the day. Now that you have a real job, how about springing for one of those $80 hoodies that we're selling? I got me some kids to put through college now...peace out.” Then, as quick as lightning, Donnie was off to work his magic eyes on another girl. I was left alone...the twelve-year-old girl in me feeling all flustered, awkward and used.
After the New Kids' set, the Backstreet Boys took the stage. I have to admit, I wasn't really a huge fan of BSB when they were popular. By that point in time, I had moved onto Doc Martens, black eyeliner and the Pixies. The term “boy band” had vanished from my vernacular. Nevertheless, the foursome of the BSB (former band-mate, Kevin Richardson didn't want to join the tour. What, he has something better going on?) put on a really good show. They truly seem to really have a knack for personally connecting with the audience. Brian Littrell (and Lexington, Kentucky native) proudly gave the “correct” pronunciation of “Louisville” and later wore a UofK jersey on stage. I was really touched when band-member, Howie Dorough brought his young son onstage. This sweet moment portrayed the fact that these guys who were once bachelor sex symbols are now husbands and fathers, at a similar stage in life as so many people in our generation.
The New Kids stormed the stage and took over with perennial favorite “Step by Step,” giving the BSB enough time to change into shockingly white suits (how 90s!) and come back. This back and fourth went on for a while, and I began to wonder if the set list could have been trimmed down a bit. The bands also chose to introduce one another, which took a long time. Things picked back up with Jordan Knight's "I'll Be Loving You Forever.” The man's still rocking that amazing falsetto. The Backstreet Boys brought the house down with “I Want It That Way” which proceeded the encore performances of the BSB's “Everybody” and “Hangin' Tough“ by the New Kids.
The band hugged one another, exited the stage and the lights came back on. I wistfully shuffled out of the Yum! Center with my throat hoarse from screaming. Sadly, my tear-stained Donnie Walhberg pillow was lost at summer camp long ago. But last night, dreams of boy bands and washboard abs were dancing through my head all night long.
Photos: Margaret Everson