Previously on the Bushwick blog, Kerry dazzled us with Part I of her V.I.P. New Kids on the Block concert experience. There she described the pre-concert activities including detailed descriptions of the hugging style of each New Kid. Now, in Part II, the show is about to start.
Two video screens came alive and reviewed all of Boyz II Men’s credentials. A laundry list of mega hits and awards flashed across the screens reminding us how huge these guys once were. Judging from the screams emanating from the crowed, no one had forgotten a single bullet point on their neatly harmonized resume. When the video stopped, the stage lights came up and Boyz II Men magically appeared at the back of the stage. The screams from the crowd were nonstop as they started singing “On Bended Knee” with velvety smoothness. As they sang, they slowly moved down the path to the intimate main stage right in front of us. Their journey from back stage to front felt like it took hours because I was holding my breath in anticipation of seeing them up close. When they arrived right in front of me and started singing “Water Runs Dry,” I may have teared up a bit.
Next, during “I’ll Make Love to You” they handed roses to lucky ladies in the crowd and, be still my heart, Wanya Morris bent down and handed roses to both Zandra and me. The tween in me died a thousand happy deaths holding that rose. At this point, I forgot that everyone else was there and that others had received roses too. With my tunnel vision enacted, it was just Wanya and me in the Tacoma Dome and the song was only for my ears. My hands shook as I tried to tweet the exciting news. I clutched the rose during that song and the next one before deciding it wouldn’t disappear into thin air if I set it on my chair.
Boyz II Men’s set was brief and, frankly, could have been a lot longer. They left me wanting more, exiting the stage quickly after performing crowd favorite “Motownphilly.”
I didn’t have much time to mourn Boyz II Men though, as 98 Degrees took the stage next. The crowd wasn’t as pumped for 98 Degrees as they were for Boyz II Men, so I was surprised that Nick Lachey and the gang were billed second. My biggest takeaway here is that Nick Lachey is far more beautiful in person than I ever imagined. When it comes to 98 Degrees, I’ve always been a Justin girl. I know us Justin girls are few and far between. I’ve always admired his underappreciated Every Man looks and thought Nick was overrated. That is, until I laid eyes on Nick. His lips are perfection and might be carved from marble. Not a single hair is out of place and his eyes twinkle in the spotlights. I now understand what so many girls see in him. I joined the chorus of squeals and screams for Nick while still cheering for Justin.
98 Degrees released a new album this year in preparation for the tour. Not many ladies seemed to know the words to these new songs though, except my girl Zandra, who is an equal opportunity boy band enthusiast and leaves no new album unexamined. She sang right along to “Girls’ Night Out” at the top of her lungs and danced with abandon. Clearly, it was her jam.
The guys intermixed new songs with classic favorites. Most ridiculous of these newbies is “Microphone,” a song so filled with euphemism that it might actually be a cast-off from an R. Kelly album. Examining the lyrics grossed me out a little:
Put this in your hand (put this in your hand)
And hold it up to your lips
We can be a two-piece band
And make some hits, while you sing in this microphone
Like Oh Oh Oh
I’ll make you scream at the top of your lungs
Like Oh Oh Oh, a-whoa
Yeah, I’m sure this song is just about a microphone guys. *wink wink* *nudge nudge*
The guys had brushed up on their danced moves and looked sharp in their coordinated but not identical outfits. Their set was about 45 minutes and they ended with “Una Noche,” my favorite of their tunes. I felt validated by the choice as if by selecting this song for the finale they were declaring, “Yes, we know that this is our best song too.”
After 98 Degrees left the stage, tension immediately built in the crowd. The wait was short, about 10 minutes, but by this time the crowd was clamoring for their guys.
The lights went out again and a video came up on the screens. Hype man Donnie’s voice boomed out over the crowd asking us to repeat a wordy pledge about having a good time. It was hard to hear the pledge over the excited wails of thousands of ladies and we didn’t need to promise to have a good time. It was already guaranteed and fun was happening all around us. Finally, they began to sing “We Own Tonight” from their new album as they traversed the area between back stage and the one directly in front of us.
I’ve seen them twice before yet never so close as being able to reach out and touch them. Mind you, I didn’t actually reach out and touch them because there was a security guard sitting next to me and I didn’t think he would appreciate that kind of behavior. I totally could have touched any one of them if I wanted to though. I had just hugged them all and I didn’t want to appear greedy.
Like 98 Degrees, New Kids intermixed old hits with new selections and both received thunderous cheers and clearly audible singing from the whole crowd. I sang and danced along with all of them and even clutched my chest and swayed back and forth to “Please Don’t Go Girl.” At this point, I started to become worried about the amount of sweat coming off some of the guys. The stage lights were extremely hot and it was visible everywhere. I wondered how far the sweat would fling off their bodies as they completed their more complicated choreography. I am willing to smell the guys mid-hug, but I won’t sink so low as enjoy being caught in their sweat crossfire.
The guys broke into a medley that included Jordan sexily singing Prince’s “Kiss” and I contemplated fainting but didn’t want to miss a single second of the show.
Later the New Kids surprised us all by bringing Seattle’s own Sir Mix-A-Lot on the stage. As if this show couldn’t achieve higher heights, Sir Mix-A-Lot pulled women from the crowd to dance along to his smash hit “Baby Got Back.” My heart swelled with pride when the Block Head I spoke to before the show was chosen and shook her amazing booty with expertise. Sir Mix-A-Lot noticed and appreciated her the most as he spent much of the song dancing with her.
The end of the show was near and New Kids finally abandoned all the new material and gave everyone what we really wanted, back-to-back hits going from “Step by Step” to “Cover Girl,” “Games,” “Tonight” and “I’ll be Loving You Forever.” Jordan redeemed himself here for the noodle hug and proved once again why he’ll always be my favorite. At some point during their set, I started to lose my voice and had to squeak along with the lyrics.
To make sure I don’t leave anything out, I assembled a list of things you can see when you sit inside the barrier at a NKOTB/98 Degrees/Boyz II Men concert.
- Danny Wood has immaculate taste in shoes and prefers the Def Jam Adidas line, especially an exquisite black and silver high tops number. You know this because his shoes are directly at your eye level about four feet from your face and you can read the brand name without the use of your glasses.
- Donnie Wahlberg tries to coolly step back onto the revolving portion of the stage when it is in mid-revolution and nearly biffs it but somehow miraculously rights himself at the last second, saving himself from becoming embarrassing YouTube blooper fodder like that poor lady that kicked Usher in the face. He says “Oh shit!” aloud and you hear it coming out of his mouth and not the amps because you are so close.
- Jeff Timmons shaves his armpits.
- The roadies are constantly going in and out from under the stage right near your legs in order to pull out and put away props. You must remain aware of their presence enough not to step on their fingers.
- It is someone’s job to cut all the thorns off the roses that Boyz II Men gives away during “I’ll Make Love to You.” Seriously. Those roses had zero thorns.
- Jordan Knight mouths the dance steps when he isn’t singing. One can read Jordan’s lips and see him counting “one and two and three and four” in complicated sections of choreography as he moves his through the steps. This is not what I expected from someone who expertly made it through the steps in the “Give it to You” video, the most complicated routine on the Darrin’s Dance Grooves DVD.
- Drew Lachey tries and fails to look smooth in a move where he lets the mic drop forward and then steps on the stand to bring it back to him so he can continue singing. Instead the stand comes back too quickly and it pops him in the mouth. He recovers quickly, but it is still somehow less sexy than Donnie’s near fall.
- Donnie Wahlberg is known in NKOTB fan circles for his super sexy shirt ripping routine to “Cover Girl.” What those sitting outside the barrier don’t know is that Donnie’s ubiquitous black ribbed tank top has a tiny starter rip at the neckline. This allows him to quickly and efficiently tear away that pesky shirt and give all those Donnie girls exactly what they’ve been waiting to scream about for hours.
All these details that you can see from inside the barricade make these guys a little bit more human. Imagine that; they are real people who make mistakes and are not a team of hunky robotic super heroes just put on earth in 1985 for adolescent girls’ (and now in 2013 for 35-year-old womens’) heart-racing pleasure.
Finally, there was a raucous encore of “Hanging Tough” and the concert came to an end. Unfortunately, the night couldn’t last forever and Zandra and I purchased matching NKOTB t-shirts and went on our way chatting excitedly as we weaved through the loud and happy crowds of excited and exhausted fans on the way back to the car. Block Heads and casual fans alike seemed to be satisfied with the show. It took me hours to fall asleep that night because I was still so overjoyed by the events of the evening.
As I drove to work the next morning, I thought about what was happening in my life when those albums were released. Step by Step came out in 1990 when I was about to turn 13. Cooleyhighharmony followed in 1991. Everything was so innocent. It was before my brother died and a period of great sadness overtook my family. All four of my grandparents were alive. This show was like a time machine ride back to the perfect moment and I was rewarded for surviving everything that followed. The fog of nostalgia is thick and powerful. And yes, I feel immensely silly writing this and ascribing so much meaning to a night where I watched 40 year-old men pelvic thrust with abandon and grown women shriek in response to said thrusts with the shrill power of the bottlenose dolphin.
Music has the power to transform. It bends time. It is stronger than the sense of smell and has the ability to bring you back to a specific place and minute when a song meant everything to you. It made me feel amazing and unstoppable. Everything I ever wanted when I was 12 came true that night. It’s an incredible feeling. Wanya Morris from Boyz II Men handed me a rose! I hugged all five members of New Kids on the Block! Sometimes it takes 23 years for all your dreams to come true and it was so worth the wait.