Review: New Kids on the Block Prove Boy Bands are Here to Stay

Thirty years later, the boys might not be “new,” but they can still get it.

Fiserv Forum was abuzz with 80s and 90s nostalgia Wednesday night. Hordes of fans, predominantly women, swarmed the venue to see their favorite boy band, New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) and guest artists Tiffany, Debbie Gibson, Salt N Pepa and Naughty by Nature.

The concert was part of the band’s “The Mixtape Tour,” promoting NKOTB’s 30-year reissue of their successful 1988 album, Hangin’ Tough.

New Kids on the Block, (Donnie Walhberg, Danny Wood, brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre) formed in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in the mid-1980s. The band members became teen heartthrobs, selling millions of albums and spawning a product line which included dolls, lunchboxes, pins, T-shirts, fanny packs and even bed sheets — not to mention boy bands like Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC and One Direction. The band released its debut album, New Kids on the Block, in 1986, followed by Hangin’ Tough and 1990’s Step by Step. NKOTB broke up in the mid-90s, but much fans’ delight, reunited in 2008 and has toured several times and released two albums since.

Jordan Knight of NKOTB. Photo credit Marcello Ambriz

NKOTB first played Milwaukee in 1990, to a sold-out Bradley Center audience. Now, nearly 30 years later, they still have the ability to turn thousands of 30- and 40-year-old women into screaming teenagers. The group maintains the same boyish good looks, slick dance moves, smooth vocals and great stage presence.

Initially dressed in matching white, slim-cut suits and bejeweled sneakers (the group underwent a few costume changes during the show), NKOTB delivered plenty of their hits, including “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” the hip-hop inspired “Games” and “Hangin’ Tough,” the dance-poppy “Step by Step” and “Tonight,” and ballads “Please Don’t Go, Girl,” “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” and “Valentine Girl.” The group also included some later material, like 2008’s “Summertime,” 2013’s “Remix (I Like The)” and its latest hit, “The Boys in the Band,” a tribute to boy bands and their fans.

A Rubik’s Cube-lit stage, blasts of confetti and even a bit of pyrotechnics added to the show’s fun atmosphere.

NKOTB was all too happy to please its Milwaukee fans. A backstage “change cam,” shown on a large video screen, showed footage of the shirtless band members, and a buff Wood holding up a Marquette University t-shirt. One dance number featured a performance by the UW-Milwaukee’s Panther Dance Team. Band members walked down the Fiserv aisles, slapping hands with and taking selfies with eager fans. McIntyre, Jordan Knight, Wood and Wahlberg weren’t too shy to show off their chiseled abs — at a particularly high point in the concert, Wahlberg ripped his shirt off, wiped it on his sweaty chest and tossed it into the crowd.

The group’s own songs were interspersed with stellar performances from hip-hop groups Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature, which kept the party going with 90s songs like “Shoop,” “O.P.P.,” “Let’s Talk About Sex” and “Hip Hop Hooray.”

Salt N Pepa are among the guest performers on the New Kids on the Block Mixtape Tour. Photo credit Marcello Ambriz

80s pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany brought the pop song mix tape to life with hits “Only in My Dreams” and “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Gibson and McIntyre even teamed up for love ballad, “Lost in Your Eyes,” in which Gibson played piano.

“Thirty years strong,” Wahlberg announced to the audience. “Remember when you were little,” and those so-called critics said a boy band like us would never last? Well, they were wrong. It’s only because of you that we’re still here — you’re the greatest fans.”

The concert ended with “80s Baby,” a collaborative song between all of the evening’s performers, a fitting ode to the mixtape, car phones, leg warmers and Nintendo NES video games.