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Concert Reviews:
NKOTBSB rekindles boy band memories for screaming Palace crowd

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- They're not Kids or Boys anymore. But on Thursday night (June 16) at the Palace, the now adult New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys joined forces to effectively take an estrogen-dominated crowd of nearly 14,000 back to a time when the groups dominated radio playlists and pop charts, and when their fans' screams tested the durability of many an eardrum.

Those vocal cords got quite a workout again at the Palace, as the combined NKOTBSB spent an energetic two hours and 20 minutes rolling through their hits of the 80s and 90s, working a sleek stage set whose front and side ramps took the nine singers deep into the arena and, occasionally, even into the crowd for the kind of up close and personal contact their fans only could have dreamed of in their heydays.

This time, however, the audience -- which ranged from tweens to grandmas and a distinct minority of beleaguered-looking dudes -- behaved themselves, with a knowing smile of nostalgia on the faces of everyone in the building tempering the otherwise raging boy band enthusiasm.

And while both group's R&B-flavored brand of pop is an easy target for critical potshots, you can't knock their ability to put on a show. The NKOTBSB performance was all precision and polish, seamlessly blending the two groups with a modicum of pyrotechnics and special effects while never going too far over the top. The opening segment was particularly impressive; following short opening sets by "American Idol" champ Jordin Sparks and Ashlyne Huff, all nine NKOTBSB members appearing on a raised platform while mashing Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" into a medley with NKOTB's "Single" and BSB's "The One." After a small explosion of streamers, the two groups then traded off songs, each making stealthy exits and entrances while the other sang one of its hits -- NKOTB's "Summertime" followed by BSB's "The Call," then NKOTB returning for "Dirty Dancing," BSB doing "Bye Bye Love" and NKOTB vamping through "The Right Stuff" before they combined again for BSB's "Larger Than Life."

The groups also traded off extended sets of their own material, with the singers easily stepping into their familiar roles. NKOTB's edgy Donnie Wahlberg and BSB's A.J. McLean, now rocking a shaved head, were bad boys turned clown princes; Wahlberg even took a swig from a fan's beer while his group romped through the seats during "Tonight." NKOTB heartthrob Joey McIntire executed a long knee slide during "Please Don't Go Girl," while bandmate Jordan Knight delivered a full-throttle falsetto on "I'll Be Loving You."

And BSB's Nick Carter, at 31 the youngest member of both troupes (and also the tallest), flowed between sex symbol and goofball, clearly having more fun than maybe even the fans as he careened around the stage.

The music did hold its interesting moments, too, with tweaks to update most of the nearly three dozen songs performed during the show. NKOTB started its ballad segment with the Delfonics' "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)," while BSB sang "As Long As You Love Me" over the rhythm pattern of the Spinners' "I'll Be Around." BSB also sandwiched a toughened version of "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" with bits of Prince's "Raspberry Beret" and Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough." "Backstreet's Back" rocked atop the riff from AC/DC's "Back in Black," while NKOTB -- dressed in Boston Bruins jerseys to celebrate their hometown team's Stanley Cup victory the previous night -- morphed "Hangin' Tough" into Queen's "We Will Rock You."

NKOTBSB also had one brand new ensemble number together, "Don't Turn Out the Lights," but it was really a night for memories and for screaming one's lungs out. These Kids and Boys may be men now, but for one night, at least, everyone happily returned to their teenybopper pasts.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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