Last Night: New Kids on The Block, Backstreet Boys and Jordin Sparks at the American Airlines Center

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New Kids on The Block, Backstreet Boys and Jordin Sparks
American Airlines Center
June 26, 2011

Better than: leg warmers, boom boxes, and slow dancing in the gym.

Last night at the American Airlines Center, NKOTBSB proved that boy bands are still hanging tough -- especially with their powers combined.

Yes, the lyrics are cheesy. And, no, no one in the combined nine-piece New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys supergroup is exactly what you would call a spring chicken these days.

But it's tough to argue with a stadium full of smiling, swaying, squealing fans.

First, though, the fans would have to wait. Jordin Sparks opened for NKOTBSB. Girl's got lungs and she is cute as a button. She's just not much of a stage commander. Maybe it was the disembodied voices on the soundtrack that accompanied her, like some kind of awesome karaoke.

Whatever. The packed house at the AAC didn't need any warming up.

And the minute NKOTBSB took the stage, every audience member took to their feet. Not a seat was taken again from that moment on. The audience was filled with mamas and their daughters, pretty twentysomethings in '80s get ups, gaggles of thirtysomethings, plenty of cougars, and even a handful of men that seemed to be having just as much fun as the girls.

Then the massive group opened with a performance Coldplay's "Viva la Vida." It was weird. The sound was all off -- it was all kind of muffled and sounded a bit like an underwater show.

Things improved a bit as the night went on.

Throughout the night, New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys took turns taking the stage, playing all of their fan faves. And, yes, all of the fans sang along. The best part of the evening? How much the bands connected with the audience. Along with the main stage, there was also a runway and a second stage at the opposite end on which the bands also performed. They ran through the crowd, high-fived fans and paused for photos at every opportunity as they moved from stage to stage. They even came down to the floor from the audience at one point.

It's clear that these bands do not take their fans for granted. It has been 25 years for God's sake. These fans don't have to stick around. But they nonetheless do, and they sing along with every lyric -- scream along, really. And they wear T-shirts and carry signs. And the love affair is clearly mutual.

There was plenty of old-school stage drama to be had: shooting flames and flying confetti; dramatic lighting and stages that could be raised and lowered; and costume changes galore, from studded "street wear" to black suits with fedoras to shiny white suits to (of course) Mavericks jerseys for the closing numbers.

The night's highlights included Brian Littrell goofing off like a kid throughout the show, Joey McIntyre's "Please Don't Go Girl" solo, all of the '80s dance moves, Donnie Wahlberg's abs and the bands breaking into a little "Deep in the Heart of Texas" rendition.

It's hard not to see a performance like this and not be a little nostalgic for what sure feels now like a simpler time in music. Cute boys with pretty voices who called you "baby" and "girl" and "baby girl" and who wanted to hold hands and take you on long walks? It's a little more palatable than this Kayne West, "I'ma disrobe you, than I'ma probe you" stuff.

It felt like a welcome throwback. 

"I see two generations here," McIntyre said into his mic at one point. "For some of us, it feels just like 1989 all over again. And, for some of us, it feels like 1999 all over again. And it's amazing how damn good we all still look."

For the finale, amidst a storm of confetti falling from the sky, NKOTBSB performed a bit of a boy band show down, a la The Sharks and The Jets.

And, just like that, the lights came up. It was 2011 again.

Don't tell anyone, but I hope to have the chance to slip back to the 80s with the boys again soon.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I can't say I was ever much of a fan of either of these groups during their peaks. But I caught this show in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun back on June 2 and had a surprisingly good time. The tunes are catchy, the boys are cute, and who says sweet's always a bad thing? It doesn't hurt that my girlfriend is a huge NKTOB fan. I guess all that screaming can be contagious.

By The Way: Some girl got hauled off and had her camera taken away halfway through the show. Not sure why they let her in with it in the first place. But, word to the wise, check the AA Center's policy for whatever game or event you're attending. Most professional rigs require media credentials.

Random Note: Some chick was dressed up like Lady Gaga and folks were lining up to have their picture taken with her. Then, go figure, she was chosen to go up on stage when the Backstreet Boys each brought an audience member up to serenade. It was downright surreal watching a Backstreet Boy sing "I'll Never Break Your Heart" to a Gaga wannabe.

Another Random Note: As luck would have it, we were seated right on the aisle where A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough made their way down to the stage through the crowd. I've never seen so many bodyguards.

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