breaking news

Friend confirms identities of Sunday Austin bombing victims

New Kids on the Block serve sex and nostalgia on a pyrotechnic platter

The year is young yet, but I’ve already seen things. Things you couldn’t imagine you’d see in 2017.

I’ve seen Jordan Knight grab his right stuff while rockets and cucumbers flew across the screen behind him. I’ve seen him bounce his pecs on a live “Quick Change Cam.” I’ve seen Joey McIntire throw up double hook ’em horns while wearing a University of Texas jersey, and I’ve seen his neck veins bulge to push out Broadway notes. I’ve seen Danny Wood breakdance. I’ve seen Jonathan Knight turn, inexplicably, into Marcus Mumford.

I’ve still never seen Donnie Wahlberg’s eyes.

But I have seen him — pumped up and hanging tough in a Chesneyan cowboy hat, one of many chapeaus — croon atop a flaming piano.

I can’t help but wonder: Will Zayn Malik be singing on top of a pyrotechnic instrument in 20 years? I ask the question only because Wahlberg set a high bar for second-act boy band theatrics Sunday night in Austin, and also because I’m still wondering how that flaming piano works. Wahlberg and the rest of the New Kids on the Block — McIntyre, Wood and the brothers Knight — wielded spectacle, synchronized dance moves, nostalgia and phallic fan service with polished aplomb on the Frank Erwin Center stop of the Total Package Tour.

The double entendre of the “Total Package Tour” refers, in its most innocent reading, to openers Boyz II Men and Paula Abdul, who respectively answered the questions:

• Is passing out red roses to women in an arena to “I’ll Make Love to You” still sexy as hell? (Yes.)

• Will you spend your Sunday evening watching a former Laker Girl plummet to her gruesome demise after she flings herself off a ladder? (No — Abdul, tacky and sweet in all the right measures — executed her dance moves with staggering precision. The rambling story about Gene Kelly that heralded the triumphant second coming of MC Skat Kat was just the glitter on the leotard.)

The openers, though steeped in rose-colored charm, still toiled under the shadow of throwback status. The Boyz and Abdul never strayed far from the guiding light of past glory, while the Kids seemed newly electric the moment they rose from the floor on a platform.

I’ll let the guy behind me speak for us all: “Oh (expletive), it’s happening.”

Old hits and comeback songs alike got a marathon workout. “Tonight” manifested as a divide-and-conquer selfie marathon. “Summertime” took the group’s still-well-oiled synchronized dancing for a successful stress test, as did a climactic “Step By Step,” where the white-clad quintet didn’t not recall their boy band scions, the Backstreet Boys, in the final scene of the 2013 comedy “This Is the End.”

Speaking of well-oiled, climactic conquests: The New Kids served sex on a pneumatically lifted platter. The fivesome smelled the blood in the revival tour water, and it smelled like packs of women in matching NKOTB shirts (homemade or otherwise). As soon as fire plumed, jackets came off, and Jordan Knight’s nether-regions swiveled like clockwork. I’ve never seen a group of fortysomething men pull up the fronts of their shirts so much in one night. While Jonathan Knight didn’t get into the “Magic Mike”-ing quite as often as his compatriots, he did get to bring a woman up on stage for a birthday serenade. On the aforementioned “Quick Change Cam,” Austin saw more of Wahlberg than perhaps anyone outside of Jenny McCarthy.

Cycling through their catalog, including a Christmas song, the New Kids kept the spotlight on their holy trinity, for the most part. Wahlberg brought the easy and coarse charisma of an uncle who buys you beer to his role as de facto emcee. The Knight who does the falsetto held a more reticent, banter-less stance, while still sparking with thrusty, winky star power when he took the frontman post. McIntyre, the quickest to peel off his shirt all night, spun off from the choreographed nucleus like a particularly flirtatious electron all evening, even at final bow.

Life after Tiger Beat, it turns out, doesn’t have to look all too different from the days of fade haircuts and pantomimed violins.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Music

Cuddling baby goats is regularly possible thanks to Jester King farm tours
Cuddling baby goats is regularly possible thanks to Jester King farm tours

Jester King Brewery has become a place devoted to much more than simply making beer. The things the Texas Hill Country brewery has done, of course, are all in the name of making said beer and imbuing it with a sense of place — but what a place it is.  Now, there’s a working farm on the property, and it was also just announced...
Six South by Southwest movies you’ll soon see in theaters
Six South by Southwest movies you’ll soon see in theaters

Feeling some South by Southwest regret? Wishing you could have been a part of the full film experience? Well, I can’t promise that Steven Spielberg will show up at your favorite cinema anytime soon, but I can tell you when you’ll have the chance to see these big-name movies that played during SXSW. &ldquo...
In ‘Rebel Without a Crew’ Robert Rodriguez issues a $7,000 challenge
In ‘Rebel Without a Crew’ Robert Rodriguez issues a $7,000 challenge

Back in 1991, a young filmmaker named Robert Rodriguez spent about $7,000 shooting his debut feature “El Mariachi.” A few years and several movies which helped kick start both the 1990s independent film movement and the 1990s Austin film scene later,  he published his diary about the experience in a book called “Rebel Without...
More events for Tuesday, March 20, and beyond
More events for Tuesday, March 20, and beyond

Entertainment Rodeo Austin. The official sport of Texas continues through the weekend. Watch the top-ranked athletes in each event — which includes bareback riding, team roping, steer wrestling and the ever-popular mutton-bustin’ — compete for the title of champion. In two hours, you’ll watch the action, followed...
Enjoy Tuesday date night at Garage, “Gentleman’s Guide” and more events
Enjoy Tuesday date night at Garage, “Gentleman’s Guide” and more events

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” 8 p.m. March 20-24, 2 p.m. March 24, and 1 and 7 p.m. March 25. $30-$125. Bass Concert Hall, 2350 Robert Dedman Drive. This Tony Award-winning musical tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, the poor distant heir to a family fortune who tries to jump the line of...
More Stories