I love me some pop music AND I grew up in the 80s so of course I was at the NKOTBSB show at Philips Arena in Atlanta last night. I mean where else would I have been right? This was the perfect storm of pop. The only thing that would have made this better was if Debbie Gibson had opened up for them which might have resulted in a black hole of awesomeness opening up in downtown Atlanta and sucking all of us in attendance into some alternate universe of My Little Ponies, rainbows and tight choreography. I understand that most people have a love/hate relationship with this particular genre of music. If you hate it, why are you still reading? Go listen to Coldplay or something. If you love it then read on.
I attended this show with my younger sisters who are 27 and 30 now and were 8 and 11 when the NKOTB first captured their tiny little hearts. I’ll admit I used them as an excuse to listen to the infectious grooves back in the day when it wasn’t very cool to like them. Some of their friends attended the show with us, but one had to back out at the last minute. This person works for the Atlanta Childrens Hospital and we found out that both bands visited the children there earlier in the day so despite bailing on us at the last minute she still got to meet all the guys. We hate her. She is dead to me.
Our friend may have hob knobbed and canoodled with Danny, Donnie, Joe, John, Jordan, Nick, Brian, Howie and AJ but she didn’t get to see this awesome concert! The show opened with both groups doing a medley of NKTOB’s “Single” and BSB’s “The One” put to Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida“. The two songs together was a little clunky but it mostly worked. When the mix ended the BSB vanished and gave the stage to NKOTB for a while. I liked this back and forth action a lot, it gave the guys a chance to rest but provided the audience a non-stop show without those awkward video interludes we are forced to watch while the band changes clothes. When one groups’ mini-set ended the other group was usually already on stage and ready snap into action. It was crazy like Swayze!
The first section of the show was all dance with back to back showstoppers from each group that kept us on our feet including “Summertime“, “The Call“, “Dirty Dancing“, “Get Down“, “The Right Stuff” and “Larger Than Life“. The middle of the show was reserved for the ballads, and these guys have a lot of them. The ballad section is always nice because us old folks get to sit down and rest our weary feet. NKOTB warbled through “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind“, “Valentine Girl” which was never one of my favorites and “If You Go Away“. Then Joey McIntyre stepped forward into a lone spotlight for “Please Don’t Go Girl” and proved that even though his voice deepened quite a bit since puberty he can still kill that song dead with sexy.
BSB popped up after to lead us through their catalog of syrupy love songs like “Show Me The Meaning of Being Lonely” and “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” which they performed to four lucky quivering women whom they selected from the crowd. Nick Carter went above and beyond by venturing far out into the venue to select a lady from the back. Brave boy that Nick. They also did 2 of their lesser known tracks “10,000 Promises” and “Drowning” which is one of my faves. They ended their ballad set with “Incomplete” which is always a crowd pleaser. AJ really shines on that one.
When NKOTB came back they came back hard with “Step By Step” and the amazing “Cover Girl” which is a song that Donnie Wahlberg completely makes his bitch. He tore his tank top off halfway through it and revealed those famous Wahlberg family abs. Boy is looking good for 40ish. I’ve always loved that track and they blew the roof off the arena with it. I wondered for a sec if this was their finale since it was so big and loud and crazy but they kept on going with a medley of “Click Click Click“, “Games” and “My Favorite Girl“. It still wasn’t over though. The boys left the stage and wandered up to the first rows of the side sections to perform “Tonight“. Our section got to see Joey McIntyre up close and personal and he looked to be enjoying the shit out of it.
By this point I started thinking this show had to be over soon, I mean they had sung almost everything and it seemed like I had been screaming and dancing for three hours. Turns out it was just past my bedtime and the BSB had more in store for me yet. Their next set began with “Shape of My Heart” and had them entering from the rear portals…including ours…and singing to the lucky fans in the aisle seats. I worried that poor Nick Carter wouldn’t make it to the stage in one piece judging from the frenzied looks the soccer moms were giving him as they grabbed at his shirt. They then brought out the big hits with “As Long As You Love Me“, “All I Have to Give”, “If You Stay” and “Quit Playing Games with My Heart” which they mashed up with Prince’s “Raspberry Beret“. Talk about coming out of left field.
The show finally started winding down with NKOTB’s “I’ll be Loving You Forever” followed immediately by BSB’s massive hit “I Want it That Way“. Is there a bigger pop song from the 90s? Maybe “Baby One More Time” but I think “I Want it That Way” sold more copies. I could find out but I won’t bother. My friends who hate boy bands even like that song. The boys then joined forces for their new single “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” which I haven’t warmed too yet and no one listened because when it was over they did exactly that. The lights went out.
After the annoying pretense of “would they or won’t they” come out again and ten minutes of chanting “N K O T B S B” we got the big finale, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Hangin Tough“. If you saw their big AMA performance earlier this year then you get the general idea of how this went. They had a little boy band battle for this one with NKOTB wearing Boston Celtics jerseys and the BSB wearing red ATL jerseys for hometown boy Brian Littrell. I really hoped they’d bust out a line or two from an NSYNC song here but they didn’t. Would have been perfect though to throw in a quick “Bye Bye Bye”. Oh well. When the lights finally DID got out…and the arena lights came on I was ready to pass out.
The truth here is that while this co-headlining tour was genius and great for the fans…the fact is that neither group is exactly filling arenas any more. The last time the BSB came through town they played Chastain Park which is an outdoor venue that at capacity seats less than 7000 people. The New Kids fare a little better thanks to their recent hit album and had no trouble filling Gwinnett Arena a few years back, which seats roughly 13,000 for concerts. Incidentally Lady Gaga played Gwinnetta Arena on her Monster Ball Tour and could have easily filled it twice. By combining their fan bases the boys of boybands past were able to almost fill Philips Arena which has a capacity of 21,000. The official word was that the place was sold out, but I saw a lot of empty seats. If it was sold out then a lot of people decided not to come. I should mention that the opening act, American Idol alum Jordin Sparks, put on a great little 5 song set of her big hits like “No Air“, “Battlefield” and “Tattoo” plus a new track “I Am Woman“. She sounds and looks amazing and had me actually wanting to get her cd when she left.
With the exception of the handfull of bored straight boys I saw staring blankly into the strobe lights silently praying for death as their girlfriends squealed and lactated on themselves I’d say everyone had a great time. The boys certainly delivered and unlike some other current pop stars I might mention also currently on tour actually sang for themselves for the entire two-plus hours. The only lull in the show was a terribly long bit where each band member introduced their counterpart from the other band. Bad Boy AJ introduced Donnie Wahlberg and so on. It drug on for way too long but I don’t think anyone left disappointed. If this show is coming through your town then GO SEE IT. It is well worth the money.
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