Music & Nightlife

New Kids on the Block fan? Hang tough, my friend

I imagine there’s a certain stigma attached to being a New Kids on the Block fan in the year 2015, and that if you’re passionate enough to shell out a Benjamin for a chance to see these five now-40-something “kids” perform, you can expect there’ll be a fair amount of snickering behind your back.

But therefore, Time Warner Cable Arena was a safe place for thousands of starry-eyed 40-something women who partied on Tuesday night like it was 1990.

No judgments. No shame. No need for a filter that would, in polite company, keep them from unloading eardrum-shattering shrieks when Joey McIntyre or Jordan Knight removed his shirt.

Still, almost none of it makes sense.

McIntyre is 42 but still looks like he’s not quite old enough to sit in the emergency-exit row; Danny Wood is 46 but looks as though he’s old enough to start drawing Social Security. Jordan Knight (45) still melts hearts with his falsetto; his brother Jonathan (46) still seems like he’s just in all the other guys’ way.

And then there’s 45-year-old Donnie Wahlberg – brother of Mark, husband of former “The View” co-host Jenny McCarthy, star of CBS cop drama “Blue Bloods.”

Of all the members of NKOTB, he’s the one who needs the money, the exposure and the hassle the least. Yet there he is, serving as an unofficial ringleader, taking part in the silly synchronized dances, making kissy faces at fans, striking awkward poses and generally doing things that seem like they might embarrass Mark, or Jenny or the producers of “Blue Bloods.”

Here’s the thing, though. The New Kids’ “Main Event” tour – which hitched itself to a championship-boxing-match theme early on, then dropped it – actually (kind of) works, and it (kind of) works on multiple levels.

It works for those starry-eyed 40-something female fans, for sure. Supported by a competent four-piece band, the guys went at it for nearly two hours with only a few short breaks (one of which was a PG-rated costume change captured on camera, punctuated by Wahlberg flashing a grin while holding up a Cam Newton jersey).

They hit on seven of their nine Top 10 hits: “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “You Got It (The Right Stuff),” “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Cover Girl,” “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)” and “Step By Step,” before closing with “Hangin’ Tough.”

And even if their voices weren’t always on point, they often struck just the right note figuratively with the crowd.

Jordan Knight serenaded a fan in the front row and kissed her hand; when he retreated to continue singing “We Own Tonight,” she hugged a friend and wore an expression resembling the one I saw on the face of a recent Powerball winner. Wahlberg planted two pre-teen girls on his lap while sweetly crooning on 1989’s “Cover Girl”; their moms looked elated and hugely jealous at the same time. During a solo cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” McIntyre provoked minor heart palpitations simply by lying on his back and humping the air.

Which leads us to the other level this show works on. Whether it’s McIntyre humping the air, or Danny Wood breakdancing, or Wahlberg the TV star making kissy faces, or Jordan Knight striking a “Blue Steel” pose, or Jonathan Knight screwing up the choreography, there is no shortage of moments for cynics or (one of the few) dragged-along-husbands to have fun with.

Making the night even more bizarre were the opening acts: rapper Nelly of “Hot in Herre” fame and R&B/hip-hop duo TLC of “Waterfalls” fame.

Nelly struggled to come up with words to use besides “mother------,” while TLC simply could not live up to the emcee’s introduction as “one of the greatest musical trios of all time” without rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who died 13 years ago and was patched into songs via pre-recorded tracks.

Yet all three acts combined to deliver a show that – despite a four-hour running time – had a good sense of pacing, didn’t take itself too seriously and seemed to wholly satisfy an arena full (or half-full, at least) of women, who spent all night waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care what you think of them.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes

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