Glitter Vests, Crotch-Grabs and That Guy from Glee: The NKOTBSB Extravaganza

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Judge me if you will, but there’s just something about a well-choreographed boy band routine that sets my heart aflutter.

I can’t help it – whenever moderately handsome males groove in unison to cheesy pop ballads, donning sparkly fedoras on their noggins, a part of me dies and floats on up to heaven.

Therefore when I attended the spectacle that is the New Kids on the Block/ Backstreet Boys joint concert tour Saturday night at Rogers Arena, my poor little mind was practically blown out by the sheer extravagance of boy band cliché. And judging from the ear-shattering female screams of the sold-out crowd, I wasn’t the only one who was bedazzled by the in sync (no pun intended) dances and sugary sweet love ballads.

After having missed the opening act of some quartet named Neverest, my evening began with a charming performance from Glee’s Matthew Morrison (otherwise known as Mr. Schuester). With a set that included his Glee renditions of “Gold Digger” and “Sway” as well as ditties off his recent debut solo album, the curly-haired crooner proved he can certainly belt the high notes out live as well as on TV. Working the crowd so hard his white tuxedo shirt ended up soaked through with sweat, the singer/actor had the ladies squealing with well, glee, thanks to his keen ukulele-playing skills and surprisingly impressive footwork. At one point he called out an homage to his three favourite “triple threats” – Gene Kelly, Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson – proceeding to boogie about on stage like nobody’s business. Never before have I seen a dance routine that included both a pirouette and a crotch grab…and I’ve got to admit, I liked it. While the tunes from his self-titled album were mostly forgettable, Morrison’s golden vocals and vibrant stage presence more than made up for it. Plus, he’s cute as a button.

Then, it was time for the main attraction. The biggest boy bands from the 1980s and 90s joined forced together on stage, a-dancing and a-singing amidst pyrotechnics and show smoke as if they weren’t nearly middle-aged. It was truly like turning back the clock: Joey’s piercing blue eyes are still just as intense during “Please Don’t Go Girl”, Howie D. still sounds like he’s sucked back a tank of helium, Jordan Knight still managed to hit the impossibly high notes with “I’ll be Loving You (Forever)” and Nick Carter is still…well, annoying. Looking a little worse for wear after his admitted drug and alcohol addictions, the youngest Backstreet Boy once more flaunted around on stage like he was God’s gift to the human race, inexplicably putting on neon yellow shutter shades mid-song and writhing around on the ground for an impassioned air-guitar demonstration.

The only real difference within the boy band troupe came from Donnie Wahlberg, who has inexplicably become the hottest New Kid with his grizzled good looks and impressive six pack (which he randomly kept lifting his shirt to display).

The chest flaunting was all part of the gloriously corny fun, which included various costume changes featuring shimmering tees and colour-coordinated sneakers, plenty of fist-pumping and lots of sign waving from the crowd (The Backstreet Boys Still Have it Goin’ On!). It just goes to show how powerfully potent nostalgia is. While neither NKOTB or BSB would have a shot in hell of selling out an arena based on the release of any new material, they can always count on the now grown women who once decked their bedrooms with their posters and sang “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” together at slumber parties to support them.

The only downfall of the evening was an atrocious remix of the BSB’s “As Long as You Love Me”, but I guess you can’t have it all. Overall, I still heart the NKOTBSB and their horribly addictive boy band confections. I eagerly await the geriatric reunion tour which is sure to follow in 2030 – should be interesting to see how they’ll perform “Hangin’ Tough” with canes.

The NKOTBSB tour also runs in Vancouver Sunday night. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

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Kristen McKenzie 

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