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Barely a tween was to be found at the concert headlined by boy-band supergroup NKOTBSB on Friday night, but you’d hardly know it from the deafening screams inside the packed Staples Center in Los Angeles.
While the fans may have gotten older, it seems their appreciation for late-‘80s /early-‘90s hitmakers New Kids on the Block and late-‘90s/early-2000s mega-sellers Backstreet Boys hasn’t diminished. (It’s likely that the mostly twenty- and thirtysomething female audience — who stood pretty much during the entire 2 1/2-hour show — was comprised nearly entirely of fans who had grown up with one of the bands, and this probably wasn’t their first time seeing them in person based on the vintage concert tees some sported.)
But from the start, NKOTB and BSB came out to entertain, and the audience didn’t leave disappointed. Sure, the costumes may be less flashy, the hair a little thinner and the voices a bit lower — the Kids and Boys are now in their thirties and forties — but inside Staples Center, fans were transported back in time. The groups knew what the fans wanted — hit songs, flashes of skin and some well-choreographed dance moves — and they more than delivered.
In a nod to their heydays, NKOTBSB kicked off the show with a mash-up of “Single”/”The One” to the melody of Coldplay’s “Vida La Vida,” which includes the line: “I used to rule the world.” From there, the two groups took turns turning out their greatest hits, and it was soon clear all nine singers haven’t lost any of their vocal abilities.
While NKOTB member Joey McIntyre’s voice has certainly changed from when he recorded “Please Don’t Go Girl” as a youngster, the song actually benefits — and gets an update — from his lower register and more mature tone. Meanwhile, the night’s standout had to be NKOTB’s Jordan Knight, who impressed by hitting the falsettos in “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)” and “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” as if he were still in his teens.
One of the biggest crowd-pleasing moments came courtesy of Donnie Wahlberg, who ripped off his tank top and wiped sweat from his chest on it while singing “Cover GIrl.” (It should be duly noted that the years have been very good to these guys, who were all in tip-top shape). At this point, the audience was going wild with anticipation, and as expected, Wahlberg threw it out into the audience, where there was a bit of a mad dash to claim the souvenir.
For BSB fans, the highlight of the show was probably the surprise appearance of original member Kevin Richardson, who left the group in 2006. He popped up during a performance of “I Want It That Way” to screams that felt as if they could be heard all the way in NKOTB’s Boston hometown.
“Wow, this feels good,” Richardson told the ecstatic crowd of being reunited with the group and being on stage again.
One comical moment came when the Backstreet Boys brought up members of the audience to serenade with their hit “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” The four chosen were three females and one very good-natured male, who played along as A.J. McLean sang lyrics including “From the first day that I saw your smiling face/Honey, I knew that we would be together forever” directly to him.
Indeed, both groups clearly appreciate their fans and made efforts to include them in the show, whether by singing amid the crowd (NKOTB) or making a midshow entrance down the audience stairways, shaking hands and even posing for pictures while singing (BSB). In addition, the stage was set up to give concertgoers optimal views — even those in the cheap seats — with a catwalk-like extension that covered more than half the length of the Staples floor and included rising platforms at either end.
Overall, the night could be described as one big nostalgia fest, albeit one that surprisingly didn’t feel dated. In addition to the set list — and NKOTB pulling out their signature side-to-side leg kicks for “The Right Stuff,” another fan-pleaser — both groups scattered portions of songs ranging from AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” Prince’s “Raspberry Beret,” Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Bel Biv Devoe’s “Poison” throughout the performances.
“There are two generations here,” McIntyre told the crowd at one point. “To some, it’s 1989 again, and to some others, it’s 1999 again. … There’s no reason it has to stop.”
Still, the combined NKOTBSB did bring things into 2011 by singing their catchy recent single “Don’t Turn Out the Lights (D.T.O.T.L.)” before heading into an encore that included the NKOTB’s “Hangin’ Tough,” BSB’s “Backstreet’s Back” and the “NKOTBSB Mash-Up” featuring snippets of hits that have been re-recorded.
The nine guys have obvious chemistry and enjoy touring together, but say this were a battle of the boy bands: Who would win? While BSB’s songs hold up better overall, NKOTB brought a bit more energy and stage presence to the highly entertaining show.
Opening act Jordin Sparks proved she’s come a long way since her American Idol days. The Season 6 winner, looking fit and performing like a pro, sang an energetic set that included her hits “Tattoo” and “No Air.” She can belt a tune, no doubt, but a heavy reliance on backing vocals prompted one concertgoer to lament that she was giving off the impression she was lip-synching.
The first opening act, Ashlyne Huff, did her best to warm up the crowd with frequent shout-outs to the headliners that drew cheers, though she and her backup dancers’ silver-sequined costumes and backing DJ made the performance seem more appropriate for a nightclub than a venue like Staples.
Single/The One — NKOTBSB
Summertime –- NKOTB
The Call –- BSB
Dirty Dancing -– NKOTB
Bye Bye Love –- BSB
The Right Stuff -– NKOTB
Larger Than Life -– NKOTBSB
Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind) –- NKOTB
Valentine Girl –- NKOTB
If You Go Away -– NKOTB
Please Don’t Go Girl -– NKOTB
Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely -– BSB
10,000 Promises -– BSB
I’ll Never Break Your Heart -– BSB
Inconsolable –- BSB
Drowning –- BSB
Incomplete –- BSB
Step by Step –- NKOTB
Cover Girl –- NKOTB
My Favorite Girl -– NKOTB
Games –- NKOTB
Click Click Click –- NKOTB
Tonight -– NKOTB
Shape of My Heart -– BSB
As Long as You Love Me -– BSB
All I Have to Give -– BSB
If You Stay –- BSB
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) -– BSB
I’ll Be Loving You Forever -– NKOTB
I Want It That Way -– BSB
Don’t Turn Out the Lights (D.T.O.T.L.) -– NKOTBSB
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) -– BSB
Hangin’ Tough/We Will Rock You -– NKOTB
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)/Hangin’ Tough (NKOTBSB Mash-up) — NKOTBSB
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