Monday, November 24, 2008

[Cheesy pun based on a song title]

This weekend, my friend Kat flew out to Seattle to meet me for an event we've been waiting for our entire lives — a New Kids On The Block concert. Kat and I met at summer day camp in 1991 and bonded over our love for the group. She had been to a concert and I hadn't, so I thought she was totally cool. Words can't quite express just how obsessed I was with the New Kids, but the one thing I've ever really felt sad about in my childhood was that I didn't go to concert.

At some point in the very early part of this year, when word spread that the boys from Boston had reunited, Kat called and said "Girl, we HAVE to go to that concert."

So, when we learned the group was coming to the Northwest, I bought tickets to the Portland concert for Kat's birthday. In September or October, when we found out the group canceled the Rose Garden appearance to perform on the American Music Awards, I called in a panic to make sure she could change her travel plans and then I bought tickets to the Tacoma show, conveniently scheduled for the day before the Portland show.

Anyway, I hardly ever see Kat, so hanging out with her was awesome, and it was so great to have a friend to share the concert with who understands why it was so exciting for me. I've been waiting 18 years to see the New Kids in concert. They were my first loves, after all.

We got to the arena and discovered that our seats were phenomenal. Far better than I thought they would be from looking at the seating chart. We were only 14 rows off the floor and maybe about 200 feet from the stage. The opening acts were Lady Ga Ga, who was OK, and Natasha Bedingfield, who was actually fantastic. I wouldn't have known from the one song of hers that ever plays on the radio, but she has a really beautiful voice and seemed like a genuinely sweet person.

At 9:30 (the show started at 8), the New Kids finally came on stage and the place went insane. The stage had a raised platform and the group was raised up so they appeared out of nowhere as columns of smoke shot into the air. The entire floor lit up with the display screens from digital cameras and when Kat laughed about it, I said "Uhm, digital cameras didn't exist at the show you went to. We're old."

They started out with "Single," a song that is performed with Ne-Yo on their new album, "The Block." It was fantastic. The vocals were spot-on and the balance between the vocals and instruments was perfect. I've been to a lot of shows where the music was so loud and the balance so bad that you can't understand the vocals, but it was perfect. Aside from the screaming, we could have been the only people in the room. Big kudos to the sound guys at the show.

The next song was "My Favorite Girl," which was one of my two favorite songs when I was a kid. The audience went nuts. Everyone was singing and dancing along -- I'm guessing a lot of fans don't know the new album as well, so the crowd's energy was best on the old songs that we all remember (and that some of us never saw live before).

Throughout the show, they kept the energy up. You'd never know those guys were pushing 40 (although they make the late 30s look pretty damn hot). Even with all the performances I've seen on TV and all the YouTube videos I've seen from shows on this tour, I had NO idea these guys were such good live performances. Joe McIntyre really does have a way of making you feel like he's singing directly to you, even in a crowd of thousands.

They did a two-hour set with no intermission, although there was time for the guys to take turns resting while Joe, Jordan and Donnie sang solos. Jordan sang "Baby I Believe in You," which, like he did back in the day, he did with a fan blowing his shirt open. Now, at 10, that would have embarrassed me. At 28 ... it got pretty hot in that room during that song. He also performed "Give it to You," from the solo album he did about 8 years ago. Something was a little off about it. It's a fun song, but there was a point where it sounded like he messed up. I'll forgive him for it.

Joe sang the song "Stay the Same" from his own solo album, and while I don't remember ever hearing it before, I loved it. I'll have to get it on iTunes. Again, he's just an incredible performer.

About halfway through the show, the lights went down and when they came back up, the guys were on a small circular stage in the middle of the arena, where they performed "Dirty Dancing" off the new album and "Tonight," which is a song a lot of people dislike, but which really translates well to a live performance. It was harder for me to see during that portion, but it was fun.

I'm not sure I've ever heard screaming so loud. I was in Autzen Stadium when the Ducks beat Oklahoma in 2006, and I was in Mac Court when we beat then Number 1 UCLA the same year, both of which are places that are so loud other teams complain about it, and I've never heard screaming as loud as what I heard in the Tacoma Dome Saturday night. As Kat put it, "You know, it's one thing when the place is full of 10-year-olds. It's another when it's full of grown women." I swear to you, the screaming actually created overtones (ask me sometime about the piece I sang in choir that uses overtones).

They did every single song I wanted to hear, including "Please Don't Go Girl," which is my favorite "old" song. I always loved how sweet and sincere Joe was (they recorded that song when he was about 15), and he still is. He may have a deeper voice, but he still puts everything into it. It was beautiful. And they sang "I'll be Loving You Forever," which I think every fan thinks is just about her.

All the effects were fantastic (Fireworks! Smoke! Confetti streamers exploding out of the ceiling!) and everything was just really well put together. Their roadies and production people and the band really deserve big props for how well-done the entire show is. Never a dull moment. It really was a phenomenal show. The energy of the crowd and the fact that I've been waiting my entire life for the show aside, it really was the best concert I've ever been to. Absolutely incredible.

The set list was (although not in order, because I don't remember the order):

"Twisted" (from "The Block")
"Single" ("The Block")
"Grown Man" ("The Block")
"Summertime"("The Block)
"Click Click Click" ("The Block")
"2 in the Morning" ("The Block")
"Dirty Dancing" ("The Block")
"If You Go Away" (from "Face the Music" -- the last single they did before they broke up)
"The Right Stuff"
"Please Don't Go Girl"
"I'll be Loving You Forever"
"My Favorite Girl"
"Hangin' Tough"
"Cover Girl"
"Didn't I Blow Your Mind" (from their first album)
"Baby I Believe in You"
"Step by Step"
"Valentine Girl"
"Give it to You" (from Jordan Knight's solo album)
"Stay the Same" (from Joe McIntyre's solo album)