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Concert Reviews:
New Kids hang tough at The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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AUBURN HILLS -- On Saturday night, tens of thousands of young girls will pack Detroit's Ford Field to -- loudly -- proclaim their love for Taylor Swift.

But on Friday night, May 29, it was their mom's, aunt's and maybe older sisters' turn to revert to their days as screaming meemies.

New Kids on the Block has had new music out as recently as 2013 ("10"), but the core of the group's hour-and-50-minute The Main Event show was drawn from back in The Day, the mid- and late-80s when, along with fellow Bostonites New Edition, NKOTB ushered in a new era of boy band mania. And that's just what the nostalgic Blockheads, now mostly grown-ups with some of their own young daughters in tow, wanted; all the better to singalong to, of course.

NKOTB and their ilk take plenty of critical lumps, of course, but the truth is Friday's show as a flat-out good time -- energetic and entertaining, flamboyantly staged and tightly choreographed. The five New Kids (now men) were in strong voice and displayed an exuberance that went beyond professional, and even the beleaguered males in the crowd could be seen getting into it, albeit with sideways glances to make sure nobody was noticing.

It was also a well-structured night in which rapper Nelly's opening set flowed into TLC's and with only a short break before NKOTB's arrival. That was filled with some clever video matter, including a cops 'n' robbers short featuring New Kid Donnie Wahlberg and rapper Method Man, the latter asking, "When are New Kids getting back together."

True to the Main Event tour title, the troupe mounted the rectangular, center-arena stage in boxing robes, introduced one by one on video by Michael "Let's get ready to rrrrrrumble" Buffer. A breathless, take-no-prisoners opening set of "Bock Party," "Crash," "My Favorite Girl," an extended "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" and "Whisper" (with a bit of the Isley Brothers' "Shout") -- decked out with fresh, EDM-influenced arrangements -- featured modest pyrotechnics and more confetti and streamers than most acts use during an entire show. The segment also showed off the network of hydraulic lifts that lent a potent visual dimension to the show.

There were certainly gimmicks -- including a "quick-change cam" for one of the four outfit switches and covers of Biz Markie's "Just a Friend," a bit of T-Baby's "It's So Cold in the D" and even "Good Vibrations," the 1991 hit by Wahlberg's brother Marky Mark, which was rapped by a male pulled from the seats while Jordan Knight and Joey McIntyre danced with women they selected from the crowd. Knight and McIntyre showed off their Chippendales-worthy torsos during their short solo spots, and Wahlberg -- who dropped a few more F-bombs on Friday than he did back in The Day -- led the Palace through Bill Wither's "Lean on Me" before launching into "Cover Girl."

A medley of slow jams, meanwhile, had the Bockheads swooning, while a group trip into the crowd during "Tonight" turned into an orgy of selfies and speed-of-light social media postings.

NKOTB closed strong, too, with "Games," "Step By Step," the Jordan Knight showpiece "I'll Be Loving You (Forever)" and a muscular "Hangin' Tough," with a bit of Queen's "We Will Rock You" thrown in at the end. They may have ceded their pop sensation status to the likes of One Direction and Justin Bieber, but Friday's show proved that, 27 years on, the Kids are more than alright.



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