There's comfort in knowing exactly what you're going to get from a concert. People talk about the first Lollapalooza, when Nine Inch Nails stormed off the stage because the heat fried their electronics, or when the dudes from Wavves were upset with each other for some reason and quit mid-show, but the fact of the matter is that those people weren't treated to an entertaining show — they were given an anecdote to repeat to a series of uncaring audiences in exchange for the cost of a ticket. The story is like a rain check that can't actually be redeemed.
It's easy to romanticize the dangerous elements of live rock 'n' roll, but wouldn't it be better to just know that you'll show up at the venue, have a good time, and go home satisfied? Maybe the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys (officially titled "NKOTBSB") mash-up of a concert isn't your thing, but for boy band fans of the '80s and '90s, it's an impeccably produced match made in heaven.
Spoiler alert: The first song (unless there's some unexpected deviation from the set list they've been using) you'll hear from the co-headliners will be Coldplay's "Vida la Vida." It may seem strange — since the scruffy but non-offensive adult-contemporary Brits aren't exactly a similar cultural touch point to the work of either BSB or NKOTB — but a song from a neutral corner diffuses a potential controversy about whether the Kids or the Boys get to start things off. If you were a fan of either group, you're probably into Coldplay now, anyway. It's a logical progression.
Does it even matter what songs they play and in which order, though? If you were a fan of either band or transitioned from NKOTB to BSB over time, you'll eventually get to hear all the hits over the course of the evening's 38 songs. The strange career recapping and moderately Beatles-esque "Tonight" sung by NKTOB's Jordan Knight? When they sing the part about how the girls sent them so much fan mail, the screams will be in a different pitch than they were in 1990, but they'll probably be just as loud. The same sort of reaction will occur for the Backstreet Boys' version of the fan tribute "Larger Than Life." These guys aim to please, at least to the extent that their fans will want to come back for the next reunion show.
In the end, both acts were essentially brands first and bands second, created as entertainment machines with perfectly engineered songs and remarkably human faces to the product.
The constraints have loosened significantly over time, as each group discarded its respective corporate overlord. Now the bands have an opportunity to at least pretend to be spontaneous and carefree, but there's an aspect to these shows that's not far from a higher-priced version of cruise ship entertainment (which makes some sense, since the New Kids have an annual sold-out cruise of their own).
These guys are working for their future suppers and putting away money for their retirement plans, to pay off the adjustable-rate mortgages on their semi-luxurious homes. No one's going to get off-brand and pout, thinking of how a solo career might be. They've worked through that and have come to a comfortable state of mind regarding their place in the pop universe.
The girls in the audience became women, but they'll still scream for their favorite boy. And in the end, the bus will move to the next town and no one will feel cheated. The fans will say nice things about the show on their Facebook wall and go back to their families and lives.