Friday, October 10, 2008

New Kids on the Block

While it's true that you can never really recapture the innocence of youth, last week I discovered that for $38, plus service fees, you can at least rent it for about 2 hours and 15 minutes. On October 2 I bore witness to the bizarre time capsule of a spectacle that was the New Kids on the Block reunion concert.

I will get right to the point. My expectations were very low. But in the end, I was genuinely, giddily, happily entertained.

Like a lot of girls my age, when I was 9 years old I was stupid over NKOTB (as we called them then, even at age 9 I had a love of acronyms). Unlike most girls, I remained a New Kids fan well after it was socially acceptable to do so. I think somewhere between the summer and fall of 1990, they went from being the hottest thing in the world to being elementary school pariahs. The fall was swift and merciless, and little 9-year-old Robyn's undying affection for Jordan Knight (and sometimes Joe McIntyre) just could not be renounced at the whims of Richboro Elementary's social code. I hung on for about two more years, guarding my forbidden love with absolute devotion, until I went gaga over Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains, and that was the end of that.

But before it was all over, I did manage to attend one concert. I remember the date: December 9, 1990. I remember screaming my bloody head off in the upper reaches of the Philadelphia Spectrum. I remember my dad sitting in his seat, possibly comparing the ordeals he endured in his 20 years of military service to the task of sitting through an entire New Kids concert. I remember it as being the best night of my life at the time.

So when they announced a reunion tour 18 years later, my head said no, but my heart -- well, honestly my heart was like, "Seriously?" And then when we saw the ticket prices, my spleen decided to chime in and said "You must be joking." And when I saw slightly reduced prices, my descending colon was all "Whatever, dude." So my like-minded friend Lisa and I forked over the cash and eagerly began a five-month wait for the show. After buying the tickets, we caught NKOTB's big comeback appearance on the Today show. It was dreadful. Lisa and I began to have serious doubts about what we had done.

But we decided to have good amount of girlie cocktails, and at least have a laugh at it. It might be painful. It might be embarassing. But we would be drunk. So it would be fine. Bring the pain.

It turned out not to be painful at all, really. The Verizon Center was not quite sold out, but shockingly full. I saw one guy the whole evening, and most of the women were our age, many sporting the same T-shirts and massive buttons they had held on to for the better part of two decades. While everyone was in a jolly mood, these women were not being ironic or cynical about any of this. They came to hang tough, dammit, and so would we.

And the show was honestly really good, and a lot of fun. The guys apparently got their shit together since the Today show, and they sounded good, they (mostly) nailed their little dance routines, and seemed bemused but geniunely pleased that an arena full of crazy-ass women would materialize to see dudes in their late 30s singing about cover girls. I was shocked at how all of the lyrics came back to me, so it was like a huge singalong all night. Granted, these are NKOTB songs, and you can't polish a terd and call it a diamond, but they worked the hell out of the material they had. And, yes, they looked good. They've aged very well, thank you, and I'm almost certain Jordan's abs are better now than they were 20 years ago.

Of course there were a few weird moments. There was a Rod Stewart-esque number of costume changes, and one bizarre interlude where they had a montage of random celebrities who have died over the past 15 years since NKOTB were on the scene, like what they have during award shows. I'm sure Kurt Cobain, Frank Sinatra, and Tupac appreciate the recognition, but I'm not sure this was the venue for it. But even the wack parts were endearing. Like the piano that appeared on stage for no other reason than to have a lady in tight pants dance on top of it. Or the guitar that Donnie slung around his neck at the beginning of "Cover Girl," and then never touched again. Hey, at least they were actually singing. Overall, it was a great evening, and I was weirdly proud of my little crushes of yesteryear for pulling off something that by all rights should have been a train wreck. Well played, lads. Well played.