Last Thursday night New Kids on the Block took the stage at the iHeartRadio Theater presented by P.C. Richard & Son in lower Manhattan. They have been in New York promoting their new album 10 (iTunes), their first album since 2008’s The Block which was released after a 14-year hiatus. It was a very intimate show, for just a handful of dedicated fans. And these weren’t ordinary fans. They were the kind of fans that line up outside of venues hours before a show. Fans who scream and shout after every word spoken or sung on stage.
PopBytes is glad to report that New Kids on the Block still have it! These fans are pining for their every word and move. A crowd full of mostly women. Women of all shapes, ages and sizes. Women in their forties and thirties. There were girls in attendance that couldn’t have been three-years-old when Hangin’ Tough came out back in 19888. How in the world did Donnie Whalberg, Danny Wood, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight and Joey McIntyre manage to keep the affections of so many women (and a few men) over the course of twenty-five years? And still manage to pick up new fans along the way? It’s a phenomenon that can only be explained by their talent and charisma.
Donnie seemed to take charge throughout the hour-long set. He shared the spotlight with Jordan and Joey but was also the emcee for the evening. He interacted with the crowd the most. He had the entire crowd throwing their hands up in the air and made them his backup singers. The quintet opened the show with a new song called “We Own Tonight” and everyone is on the same page. The group and fans are feeding off each other’s energy. NKOTB are truly owning the night, serenading all of these lucky fans. Their second song of the night is “Crash,” another song off of 10. By the end of the song, Donnie’s suit jacket is off and he’s spinning it around and around above his head.
“We love you too. You stand in line for us like we are Cabbage Patch Kids. You are just so good to us,” Donnie tells the audience. It sounds genuine. To thank the audience they “go back in time” and do a medley of “Step By Step,” “Hangin’ Tough,” and “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” The crowd roars in excitement and everyone was singing along to each and every word. It was a rare and memorable experience; it was an experience I know my sister and all of her childhood friends would be jealous of. NKOTB were inescapable in the late 80s. My sister would have sleepovers and her friends would bring over NKOTB sleeping bags and Hangin’ Tough cassette tapes. I couldn’t help but want to be in New Kids on the Block. They were the heartthrobs on all the magazine covers. I wanted their clothes; I wanted their haircuts.
Halfway through the performance Jonathan Knight left the stage without explanation. Throughout the performance he seemed out of sync with the rest of the group. During the back in time medley of all their old hit songs, Jonathan didn’t participate in their group hand-waving. Once the energetic medley slowed down into the beginning of a new ballad, the rest of the group tried to encourage him to ease up by putting their arms around him. But once they started singing “Survive You” he slowly backed away and walked off stage.
We all thought Jonathan was going to come back but he never did. Joey tries to make light of the situation by joking that he had to use the restroom. Donnie jokes that Jonathan had a dentist appointment. Billboard reported that Jonathan took to Twitter to apologize for leaving the stage. But all he said was “I’m sorry …” without any explanation. In the same article, Billboard also mentions that Jonathan did an interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2001, in which he explained how he grappled with anxiety and panic attacks his entire life. A few songs later, the crowd at the iHeartRadio Theater chanted Jonathan’s name hoping to see him again but to no avail. Perhaps his anxiety got the best of him.
To make up for the absence of Jonathan, the rest of NKOTB stepped up their game. Joey and Donnie walked down into the crowd more than a few times. Wet towels were being tossed into the crowd. It seemed everyone had a chance to shake their hands, make eye contact, or catch a sweaty towel. They close the show with the first single off of their new album “Remix (I Like The)” and they don’t leave the stage until they have the entire crowd singing along.
This summer NKOTB embark on a North American tour they’re calling the “Package Tour” which also includes boy bands of yesteryear Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees. If last week’s show is any indication of what this tour will be like, they will have entire cities swooning at their feet.
PHOTOS | BRIAN FRIEDMAN FOR IHEARTRADIO