REVIEW BY MELISSA FOSSUM AND DANIEL RAVEN
Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.
New Kids On the Block and Backstreet Boys have grown up a bit since their heydays on MTV and the music charts, and so have their fans. But that hasn't stopped the bands from cashing in on nostalgia, or people from buying tickets for this tour. Those people seem to fall into two categories: mostly old fans of either or both bands, and to a lesser extent, non-fans who are curious to see what the big deal was and who still shows up to see these guys. We sent one person from each camp to the NKOTBSB show -- Melissa Fossum, who was a huge fan of the Backstreet Boys, and Daniel Raven, who secretly liked New Kids on The Block and turned out to be one of the few guys in attendance.
New Kids on the Block, and Backstreet Boys (NKOTBSB)
U.S. Airways Center
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Melissa: Like most girls born in the late '80s, I went through a huge boy band phase. During the TRL heyday, I was just as crazy about the Backstreet Boys as most of the girls screaming like banshees on TV. Unlike them, BSB's music never brought me to tears, although I did concoct a few dance routines with my friends.
Daniel: As a 28-year-old guy who primarily listens to gangsta rap and industrial music, I've spent a long time trying to hide the fact that I played the hell out of the New Kids' album Hangin' Tough when I was six or seven and owned it on cassette. I viewed the opportunity to go to this show as a chance to end my decades-long repression of the fact that I was once a boy band fan and finally find closure.
Melissa: Donnie Wahlberg from NKOTB said there were two generations in the audience -- those who think it's 1989 and those who think it's 1999. Backstreet fans may have dominated the audience, but New Kids fans were equally energetic. The screaming from the audience was contagious. And, well, the boys looked good and that was definitely something to cheer about. The gals hooted and hollered at all the chest rubs and crotch thrusts throughout the evening. At times, it felt more like a Chippendale's performance than a concert. Some girls even had signs that read "Get Naked." I can't complain.
Daniel: There were so many young willing virgins (and their mothers) at this show. If I didn't have a girlfriend, this would have been a highly productive evening. Zero competition for chicks in the stands, and the guys on stage were obviously gay, so no issues there.
Melissa: Each band had multiple costume changes. The show started with both bands sharing the stage in leather jackets. New Kids' finest ensemble was the matching suits and fedoras worn during a medley of slow love songs. They looked as sharp as the Rat Pack. Both bands overkilled glitter. I understand that boy bands aren't the most macho thing in the world, but there's just something wrong with Donnie Wahlberg's bedazzled Public Enemy shirt. I know Flava Flav likes bling, but still...
Daniel: After a surprisingly well-produced intro video that showcased the members of both groups and put names to faces (presumably so girls in the audience would know what to name their shower heads), the groups appeared together on stage in one spray-tan colored mass of Botox and Bedazzled t-shirts. The only thing "Hangin' Tough" on stage were these guys' tampon strings. Although the groups eventually moved on to more tasteful ensembles like Bedazzled military outfits, suits, and jeans and wife beaters, when they first appeared they were wearing the largest collection of sparkly accessories I have ever seen. Hats aren't supposed to hurt peoples' eyes when light hits them, and Donnie Wahlberg will NEVER be cool enough to rock a Public Enemy T-shirt, let alone one made of rhinestones.
Melissa: Both bands played like they were still at the top of their game. Howie Dorough sang former Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson's parts and did a decent job in his place, although one of my friends kept griping at his absence. I was really impressed by NKOTB's singing. They managed to hit all the high notes in spite of recording songs before finishing puberty. Neither band changed their choreography much, sticking to their music video moves.
Daniel: NKOTB outshined the Backstreet Boys in the same ways that good sex surpasses bad sex. The former were patient, considerate, focused, and passionate, while the latter were clumsy, frantic, selfish, and overly eager. While the New Kids exercised restraint and allowed whoever was singing the main part of a particular song to be the focus of attention, the members of BSB were constantly jostling one another to get noticed by the audience. The Backstreet Boys' choreography lacked cohesion, and because the individual singers kept flailing around in their own ways and shouting mindless nonsense like "PHOENIX!" over each other's parts, they came off as immature and amateurish. In BSB's defense, their songs tend to contain lead vocals from all the group's members, while NKOTB's typically feature one member providing primary vocals and the rest in a supporting role. Still, the Backstreet Boys' performance left me feeling violated.
Melissa: The first half of the show was extremely energetic until New Kids put on their Rat Pack ensemble and sang a bunch of sappy love songs. Things continued to slow down when BSB did the same thing. These songs were all bunched together and should have been broken up. A few covers snuck their way into the set. NKOTBSB kicked things off with Coldplay's "Viva la Vida," which was interesting at first, but got pretty weird toward the end. The song doesn't translate well to a boy band. A Rusko song brought Nick Carter to the end of the catwalk doing booty drops. He lead BSB's version of "Raspberry Beret," which sounded good. New Kids sprinkled in some surprises, singing part of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and including the guitar riff from AC/DC's "Back in Black."
Daniel: While the Backstreet Boys got great audience response from boy band classics like "Backstreet's Back," "I Want It That Way," and "Shape Of My Heart," the group's shoddy showmanship and lack of class overshadowed the music and undermined their efforts. Hits from NKOTB included "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)," "Step By Step," and "You Got It (The Right Stuff)." The New Kids simply have better songs. Sorry, Melissa. The older boy band even beat out BSB when it came to covers. The "My Favorite Girl" mash-up with Bell Biv DeVoe's "Poison" kicked ass and almost made up for the group's outfits. The Backstreet Boys' mash-up of "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" with Prince's "Raspberry Beret" fell flat. Who told BSB they were worthy of covering Prince?
Melissa: In spite of my Backstreet bias, I was very impressed with New Kids on the Block. I was expecting them to not have as much energy as BSB, but they sounded great, even if I wasn't that familiar with their material.
Daniel: Watching these groups trade the stage for two hours, I got the sense that NKOTB are consummate professionals who genuinely like each other, have spent their whole lives honing their craft, and haven't allowed obscurity or many years of inactivity to dull their skills. I also became convinced that the Backstreet Boys only care about making money and banging groupies and probably figure they don't need to practice for their live shows to keep doing that, so long as their stylists can keep them looking good in music videos and their producers can keep them sounding nice on the radio.
Melissa: This show was a lot better than anticipated. I was all smiles, feeling the same way I did seeing Arcade Fire and Matt & Kim. I'm sure I'm just as surprised to make that statement as you are to read it. Tonight, I watched a concert with the same enthusiasm as a tween. I don't expect to feel it for any other '90s band unless the Spice Girls come back to town.
Daniel: The New Kids On The Block rule, the Backstreet Boys drool.
1. Medley: "Single" / "The One" (contains elements of "Viva la Vida")
3. "The Call"
4. "Dirty Dancing"
5. "Get Down (You're the One for Me)"
6. "You Got It (The Right Stuff)"
7. "Larger Than Life"
8. "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)"
9. "Valentine Girl"
10. "If You Go Away"
11. "Please Don't Go Girl"
12. "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely"
13. "10,000 Promises"
14. "I'll Never Break Your Heart"
18. "Step By Step"
19. "Cover Girl"
20. "My Favorite Girl"
22. "Click Click Click"
24. "Shape of My Heart"
25. "As Long As You Love Me"
26. "All I Have to Give"
27. "If You Stay"(contains excerpts of "Raspberry Beret")
28. "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)" (contains elements of "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough")
29. "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)"
30. "I Want It That Way"
31. "Don't Turn Out the Lights"
32. "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
33. "Hangin' Tough"(contains excerpts from "We Will Rock You")
34. Medley: "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" / "Hangin' Tough" (Reprise)
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.