I am not a New Kids On The Block fan. I am also not a New Kids On The Block hater. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, and adopted the persona wholeheartedly. I watched Saved By The Bell, had a slap bracelet, and saw Cool As Ice in theaters (if you’ve never heard of that, Google it and come back to berate me in the comments). NKOTB was something that permeated the era, so I knew their songs, I saw their videos, and yes, I memorized some lyrics. I watched the videos on MTV, and along with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men among many others, would record the video shows on VHS to watch over and over.
Till this point, though, I had never seen them live, beyond the generational appeal, I never took it to the next level. So, I took the opportunity to catch up 20 plus years later, and I have to say that it is an experience. That experience comes with its ups and downs. I’ve seen some pretty hefty acts in some pretty huge venues, and I have never experienced the fervor that the audience at Wells Fargo Center exuberated on Saturday night. It was really something to behold. The guys, were in top form, a bunch of men in their 40s, dancing like they were in their 20s, singing songs they made in their teens.
It was my first boy band experience, and from one of the originators, and it was overwhelmingly positive, however, there was a single negative that kept removing me from the experience – It all felt so scripted. The choreography, the mood, the moves. It felt like I was watching the taping for a TV show. A lot of it had to do with the moves. Boy bands are so commonplace that a lot of it felt cliched (the crotch rubbing, oooooh there was lots of crotch rubbing) even though NKOTB was one of the originators. Still, I don’t think anyone there (who was not escorting somebody against their will) really gave a damn.
Paula Abdul can still hold her own as well. Years of cushy television gigs have not dulled her ability to partake in theatrics. Despite her set feeling even more scripted than the headliners, multiple costume changes, a fun animated dance sequence, and some genuinely impressive gymnastics brought it all together despite itself.
Boyz II Men were definitely the highlight of the night for me. Fresh off the high of having a section of Broad Street named after them, the Philly trio came out strong, and never let down. Covering most of the hits in their too short set, they still have the moves, and most importantly, the voices. Their harmonies hold up after almost 30 years, and they sounded youthful the whole way through. All in all a good evening, and something that every kid of the era should experience if they don’t remember it all with venemous cynicism, or maybe even if they do.
Watch the fan video below, of Boyz II Men’s performance “Motown Philly” followed by Donnie Wahlberg of NKOTB coming back out to show off the new “Boyz II Men Blvd” sign, presented to them earlier that day (at 4 minutes in).
Photos by Matthew Shaver | mattshaverphoto.com
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