New Kids on the Block is a moniker that has become an oxymoron. The New Kids aren’t new, but it doesn’t matter to their fervent fans who remain supportive of the middle-aged act. Yes, one of the most popular boybands from a generation ago remains a hot draw.
New Kids, who will headline the Mixtape tour Monday night at Spokane Arena with opening acts Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue and Rick Astley, are continuing to enjoy a second act, as well as release new music, including “Bring Back the Time” with their tour mates.
“Eventually, if you’re lucky, you grow up,” NKOTB vocalist-turned-actor Donnie Wahlberg told me in a previous interview. NKOTB has grown up, and so has their once-teenage fan base.
Who would have imagined that Wahlberg and his NKOTB mates – Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey (now Joe) McIntyre and Danny Wood – would be headlining arenas again? And that Jordan Knight and McIntyre would have successful solo careers?
The only other pop act that comes to mind that hit such rarefied heights during the Reagan era and is living a glorious second act is Bon Jovi.
“I never would have guessed it,” Wahlberg said. “But the fans never forgot. For some reason, they stayed with us. It’s just incredible. We’ve been very fortunate, but we’ve also worked really hard for everything that we’ve achieved. Nothing has ever been handed to us. We earned everything.”
Sure, there were boybands before New Kids on the Block, but the rough-around-the-edges entertainers from South Boston took teen idol worship to another level during their salad days.
“I remember what it was like back then,” Wahlberg said. “It was out of control. It was surreal. Fans would do whatever they could to get into our limos or our hotel rooms. Fans took some crazy risks. They would stop at nothing. We had to be under the radar. Those were some wild days. You can’t help but look back and laugh.”
The group was assembled by boyband Svengali Maurice Starr during the mid-1980s. The charismatic teens pierced the hearts of young ladies courtesy of their perky synth-driven pop and ballads, and their posters and other memorabilia adorned walls across America.
“Hangin’ Tough,” “You Got It (The Right Stuff”), “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)” and “Step By Step” are among NKOTB’s biggest hits.
“All we wanted to do was be part of a group,” Wahlberg said. “Before us, there was New Edition, who we idolized. Then there were the Jackson 5 and the Osmonds, but the thing is that so many boybands came out after us.
“They all seemed to follow a formula. They had to have the heartthrob, the young one, the cute one, the tough guy. You have all these auditions to fill slots for boybands after us. There were about eight guys who auditioned for New Kids. … “Can you believe that considering how it all exploded? It wasn’t like there were a lot of white boys who wanted to sing and dance in a boyband. That wasn’t too cool in 1986.”
Nearly 40 years later, Wahlberg has plenty of fans. He remains a pop star and is a movie and TV sensation courtesy of his success with “The Sixth Sense” and “Blue Bloods,” among others. The husband of Jenny McCarthy also co-owns the Wahlburgers chain of restaurants and is the father of two sons.
If my editor – who has seen NKOTB many times in Las Vegas, and even the NKOTBSB bill with the Backstreet Boys – is to be believed, expect a high-energy show Monday night with a lot of screaming from the audience of generations of fans.
“We have nothing to complain about,” Wahlberg said. “I get to do what I love, which is amazing. The fans just keep coming back to hear our songs.”
Features editor Don Chareunsy contributed to this report.
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