Review: New Kids On The Block and friends give nostalgic serenade
New Kids On The Block members perform at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., on May 5, 2015. (Anil Sharma)
Robert Collins, CTV Vancouver
Published Wednesday, May 6, 2015 8:56AM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 6, 2015 1:22PM PDT
“It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes.”
So sang one-time hip-pop colossus Nelly. But since he spent 40 minutes of his early evening propping up the bill of last night’s New Kids On The Block nostalgia-fest at a half-full Rogers Arena, perhaps he wasn’t the Byron of his generation after all.
Even though Nelly will never trouble lists of greatest MCs (his appearance on this tour guaranteeing that his credibility is gone forever), his particular brand of hooky hits from the recent past still has party-starting potential. “Country Grammar,” “Ride Wit Me” and the aforementioned “Hot in Herre” all bounced along, the one-time superstar aided and abetted by four female dancers all familiar in the fine art of booty shaking.
R’n’B duo TLC’s glory years are theoretically even further in the past, especially with the tragic loss of their most naturally charismatic member. Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes’ voice was front and centre on opening blasts “What About Your Friends” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” and while even the least sceptical fan would question how many of the vocals were being sung live by Tionne ‘T-Boz’ Watkins and Rozonda ‘Chilli’ Thomas, the supreme quality of the band’s songs were never in doubt. Even Chilli’s chair dance for one lucky male member of the crowd couldn’t upstage the pick of the ten-track set list; “Creep”, “Unpretty,” “No Scrubs” and “Meant To Be” all stand outs, and the still-epic “Waterfalls” far and away the best song performed all night.
Not that the hardcore NKOTB fans would agree. When you play the Game of Nostalgia, you go all out or you die. Which is why their set began with a video of New Kid-turned-TV-actor Donnie Wahlberg in full cop mode chasing a criminal, played by rapper-turned-actor Method Man, who proceeded to insist that he reform the band, followed by a second video with Michael Buffer, the voice of boxing, boldly announcing the arrival of “the heavyweight champions of the boy band world!”
And so, with dancefloor-friendly comeback jam “Block Party,” began a two-hour set featuring hits stretching back to the dawn of boy band history.
To their credit, NKOTB understand and appreciate their audience. And while their tongues might not be firmly wedged in their cheeks, they’re certainly headed in that direction. “The Right Stuff” climaxed with the not-so-young men counting off pelvic thrusts at a crowd eager to be on the receiving end, while an under-stage video camera showed the shenanigans as the New Kids made their first costume change of the night, revealing the Canadian flag on Wahlberg’s underwear and Danny Wood’s impressive abs as he swapped shirts.
Having changed into tuxedos, the band emerged for a lengthy series of beyond-syrupy ballads. Joey McIntyre took the prize for best vocalist, but Wahlberg had the unmistakeable ability to hold the crowd in the palm of his hand.
“It’s Tuesday night and it’s not a hockey game,” the Bostonian boldly announced to a smattering of boos before the pace picked up with “I Like The Remix.” “Hey, our team is up sh*t creek too.”
It was Wahlberg leading the charge during a brief version of his brother’s hit “Good Vibrations” that saw one lucky lady end up dancing on stage as the filling in a Joey/Jordan Knight sandwich. And it was Wahlberg snatching and downing a fan’s beer as the band entered the crowd for “I Remember When.”
Three solo slots were a mixed bag; a squeaking Jordan’s shirt flapping in a wind machine like a middle-aged Justin Timberlake, a barefoot (and eventually shirtless) Joey belting his way through a medley of “Sweet Dreams” and “Twisted,” and Wahlberg missing notes but winning hearts as he finished with the most rocking song of the set, “Cover Girl.”
The night finished with all five New Kids on stage together, shimmying their way through megahits “Step By Step,” aural treacle “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” and an explosive “Hangin' Tough.”
Even though it would take a die-hard NKOTB fan to deny the timeless awfulness of most of the band’s music, credit where it’s due. These five 40-something men, although neither new, kids or likely to frequent any block other than H&R, still have the energy to put sauntering posers like One Direction to shame.