Living and loving New Kids on the Block
Dude, I totally swear to God, at the New Kids on the Block concert, there was a moment during the song "My Favorite Girl" when Joey McIntyre pointed directly fucking at me! I know it sounds ridiculous; there was an entire arena full of thousands of screaming New Kids fans, so how can I be sure he was looking at me? I just am. When Joey sang, "I wanted a girl like you, I've looked so long," my heart almost stopped, I was so sure he was talking to me. It got me so wet. And for a moment, just one small moment, it was 1989 again. The only difference between the NKOTB that I saw open for Tiffany so many years ago at Fiddler's Green and the NKOTB I watched, jaw agape, at the Broomfield Event Center last Friday night was that now I can buy beer. And I no longer put gel in my bangs.
In retrospect, I wonder if my parents thought I was gay, so obsessed was I with the New Kids. They had seen such fervor from me before. As a five-year-old, Michael Jackson took hold of me something fierce, as many a photo of a sequined-glove-pimping Adam Cayton-Holland can attest. But as scary as the phrase "As a five-year-old, Michael Jackson took hold of me something fierce" may sound now, at the time no one suspected he was a pederast, so my parents probably got a huge kick out of it. And at least his music rocked.
The New Kids' music blew, plain and simple, but it didn't matter, because I was 'bout it 'bout it from the get-go. They had me at Hangin' Tough. I covered my walls in photos of the boys: ridiculous pics of the fab five torn from the pages of Tiger Beat, NKOTB by train tracks, NKOTB rocking hats and vests while feeding the elderly. In fourth grade, we were assigned to pick a country and write about it. My choice? Jordan. Fucking Jordan. I thought it was destiny. And though that choice did come to bite me in the ass — writing about a Hashemite Kingdom that borders Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia when you're ten is about as fun as it sounds — I was content, figuring that somewhere in the great tallies of the cosmos, my silent Jordan Knight tribute was earning me points.
Jordan was my favorite. After him, Joey. Then Donnie Wahlberg, then Jon — not because he had any charm or presence, but because he was Jordan's brother. Danny Wood was my least favorite because he looked like half a 'tard. My older sister was into NKOTB as much as I was — though she was also a Tiffany/Debbie Gibson whore — and we managed to catch the group twice in concert. After that, NKOTB simply disappeared from our lives. Sometimes we would reminisce, coming across the band's sheets in the linen closet at our parents' house, but for the most part, they became absent in our lives, leaving a giant, gaping hole.
Last Friday night, the New Kids filled my hole.
The Broomfield Event Center was a furious sea of '80s-clad women, drunk and hysterical with the sort of crazed, estrogen-fueled abandon typically reserved for bachelorette parties. Sporting crimped hair, bright leggings and giant earrings, many had taken the opportunity to dress the way they did fifteen or twenty years ago, and the result was surprisingly hot. And terrifying. It's strange that we live in times where nostalgia occurs so quickly. That a pop-cultural phenomenon like the New Kids can exist, disappear, then triumphantly return to capitalize on their kitsch while still relatively young means we are either a very cynical society or one with a sense of humor.
Whatever way people were enjoying the New Kids, the enthusiasm was infectious. My sister and I were amazed to find so many seemingly normal people as into the band as we were. But when the boys actually made it to the stage, we abandoned any sense of irony and simply enjoyed the fuck out of New Kids on the Block. We damn near lost it when they played "The Right Stuff." It was as if the song had come on Y108 all over again, and we were in the back seat, demanding that our mother crank that shit. And if you think the New Kids have lost any of their moves, you go right ahead and think again. The same belt grab, leg rocking, the same pelvic advances and shoulder shrugs; Danny Wood — still looking like half a 'tard, only now a body-builder half a 'tard — did some of the best break dancing I have ever seen! The crowd rocked signs that said things like "We're Legal Now" and "Before There was Justin There was Jordan."
After ripping through four or five songs, the Kids retreated backstage and sent Donnie back out to address the crowd. "Denver!" he said, making his way down a staircase in a Red Sox cap with a sequined "B." The audience screamed for nearly three minutes. It was almost embarrassing. It was great to be in Denver again after fifteen years, he said, adding, "Isn't it nice to be together again now that we're all grown up?"
And it was. Sure, there were some problems with the show. Some of the new stuff is beyond bad, and a video montage commemorating those who have passed, including several of the New Kids' parents, seemed an odd choice for a frivolous irony tour. But those were minor issues. The fact of the matter is, it was nice to see the New Kids again, to remember a part of your past, pat it on the head and move on. And as I left the center with my sister, deftly avoiding the giant waves of thirty-something vagina juice cascading down the hallways, I thought how strange it is to be a 28-year-old straight male leaving a NKOTB concert.
But at least now I can buy beer to deal with it.
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