Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Decades Later: Still Hangin' Tough and Larger than Life

Two weekends ago, my friend Jessica and I went to the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys (NKOTBSB) concert at First Mariner Arena in Baltimore.  Last winter, we had talked about going to see the show in DC, but were flabbergasted that the tickets cost over $100 each.  Who did they think they were?  Elton John and Billy Joel?  So, when CBS Local offered $35 tickets to the show in Baltimore, we were in, understanding that if we were going to go to this concert, we needed to do it right.  Meaning:  We had to approach this concert as though we were flashing back to 1989.  Two eBay transactions and a trip to Goodwill later, we were ready to go:

The best thing about being in your 30's and going to and going to a New Kids on the Block concert (because that's how we were really thinking of it) instead of being 11? Is being able to enjoy a frosty cold beverage ahead of time.  And also being able to drive yourself home.

I have to admit, back in the late 80's/early 90's, I was not a tremendous NKOTB fan.  I didn't dislike them, but I had a tendency at the time (and maybe even now) to recoil a little bit from pop-culture phenomenon that others lost their minds over.  I did feel a little uncool that I wasn't gaga over New Kids (among other reasons), so, of course I selected a favorite (Jordan) that I later traded in as I read 16 Magazine a little more (Joey).  So, I think that I am actually a bigger fan now than I was then - more for nostalgic reasons.

Speaking of Joey and nostalgia, check this out:

Funny, though - Jessica and I were walking past the arena to get dinner at a restaurant before the show, and a number of people (girls) were hanging out near the busses to catch a glimpse of one of the guys.

Like this
 As we walked past, everyone started screaming, so Jessica and I were naturally curious.  Now, these guys age, like the rest of us, so we were like, "Who is that?  Is that a Backstreet Boy?" "Eh, a Backstreet Boy? Who cares?"

"NO! It's Joey!"

So excited for my first (yes, first) NKOTB concert!
Despite a respectable number of painted fan shirts, we were the only people I saw that went all out 80's-style.  Then, I got a little self-conscious.  I bet people like us really get on the New Kid's nerves.  They would probably love to shed the 80's/90's pop-boy-band image.  Sorry, New Kids!  I know you grew up, but maybe we didn't! 

Interestingly, there were a number of adolescent girls at the concert, young enough to possibly be conceived to the Backstreet Boys.  I can only imagine 30-something moms dragging their reluctant pre-teens the same way I was trapped into listening to oldies music for the first ten years of my life (for you youngin's, oldies to me is 50's and 60's music.  If you suggest that 80's music might be oldies, I will throw a pie in your face).  The most unusual, however, was a woman with a mullet that was nearly old enough to be our mother.  She must have been in her 20's or 30's when New Kids came out...not their target demographic...and she wasn't there with anyone, like a currently 20-30- something daughter.  And, as you might imagine, men were few and far between.

Waiting for the show to start
The concert opened with both groups singing "Vida la Vida" by Coldplay.  I just kept exclaiming, "What!  What!"   Not only do I not love Coldplay, I was like, I did not come here for a cover concert.  Kind of an odd choice for an opening, I thought.  From there, the groups pretty much alternated each song.  We presumed this was partially so they could catch their breath and preserve their aging joints (just kidding, guys!  We know we're as old as you are!).  Kidding aside, there were only four Kids on stage; apparently Jon had twisted his knee and wasn't able to perform.  He did wobble out for a cameo during Tonight.  Remembering his former disdain for the whole boy-band thing, I did wonder how genuine this injury was.

Both groups were heavy on pyrotechnics, schmaltzy canned lines, and schmoozing the audience.  Backstreet Boys invited a young lady up to the stage for a serenade, and NKOTB ventured into the crowd. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, I couldn't help but feel that there was a little more style than substance.  And although they played some more recent releases, I do feel that they played up the nostalgia factor to engage the crowd.  But what else would you expect?  I didn't go to hear stellar musicians and intriguing new music; I went to relive my junior high and college days, when things were both simpler and more complicated at the same time, but always...interesting.  I went to sing and dance, and act like a silly teenager with a bunch of other 20/30-somethings, and that's what we did!  As the opening notes of The Right Stuff blasted across the arena, I screamed and jumped up and down like a little girl.  
Jessica's got the Right Stuff!
If you're really excited, or have some time to waste, I put a little highlight video together for you.  You can't see the guys at all, but you can get an idea of the sound and light show.  And that person you might hear singing?  Is not me.  I swear.

Fun fact: I once performed as Jordan with a pared-down version of NKOTB in a college drag show.  We "sang" Hangin' Tough.