As some of you guessed, the post from Friday was indeed about my arrival at the Broomfield Arena for the NKOTB/NBed/GaGa show, and no, I wasn’t pleased. I’ve talked about my love of opening acts before, and so it was with a mix of rage and sadness that I heard Lady GaGa FINISHING her set of three songs at 8:10 as I entered the arena. I would love to say it sounded good from what I heard, but it was literally the end of “Just Dance”, and the crowd was cheering (good sign, right?), so no review whatsoever. Boo to that! I ran into someone today who was there, and commented that GaGa was “interesting”. I’m wondering if Middle America is ready for her poker face, but it could happen.
Unlike a lot of arena shows, this one was surprisingly quick on the changeouts. Natasha took to the stage before 8:30 with a video montage to introduce her. Talk about a clever way to handle the “I’ve heard the name, but I’m not sure what she sings” dilemma. NB was actually in fine voice, cruising through a seven-song set with no glitz and glamour, just a great voice and good stage presence. “Pocketful of Sunshine” was a bit over the top live, but “Put Your Arms Around Me” was terrific, and “Unwritten” was the female anthem of the night. I’m sure that she won over some fans by the end of her set.
So let’s talk about the crowd a bit before we get to the main event. Easily 90% women, and of the men who were there, the majority were reluctant spouses trying to make their wives/girlfriends happy. As a matter of fact, my favorite text message up on the jumbotron was “my wife lied to me…she told me this was a Toby Keith concert”. That one was followed closely by “Donnie marry me. Love, Rob”. Classic. While there were some trashy 30 and 40 somethings there, still sluttin’ it up, the majority of the crowd were moms and aunts there with another generation of fans. I really felt a warm and fuzzy feeling about it all, until I realized that in some of these cases, the kids had no interest in the show, and the moms were just using them as an excuse. Lame.
Here’s the scene…lights down, crowd is screaming at the top of its collective lungs, and the “kids” rise out of the top level of the stage, while the opening chords of “Single” loop over and over. The crowd loses it, and instantly, my eardrums determine that their very survival is in jeopardy. This went on non-stop. It was as if the fans were trying to make up for every concert they SHOULD have been at for the past 15 years, all in one pop. I still feel a slight ring in my ears two days later. That’s not a good sign.
So how did the set list go? Surprisingly, it was a good mix of the old and new stuff. “Single” segued nicely into an updated version of “My Favorite Girl”, which now has a bit of a Freestyle flavor I didn’t recall in the original version. Once established in the past, they went straight for the jugular with “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, and the crowd went ballistic. When the guys started their classic “side step” dance move, it was as if Oprah had shown up with Her Favorite Things. The hits kept coming….”Please Don’t Go Girl”, “Calendar Girl”, and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)” kept the crowd on its feet.
Momentum killer number one (besides their numerous costume changes) was the intro of Nicole of the Pussycat Dolls on the video screen for “Grown”. Obviously she’s not making anything off the royalties on the new CD, so she allowed herself to be pimped out in a pretty crappy lip sync montage. Killer number two came in Donnie’s five minute rambling monologue, which included a vaguely back-handed comment about being “loud for a small crowd” (there were several nearly empty sections at the back of the arena), and some stupid commentary about the Celtics losing to the Nuggets. They got to strike three when that monologue worked its way into “No More Games”, which is up there with some of the Christmas album as their weakest and corniest music. Fortunately, they pulled the plane out of its nosedive by trotting out “If You Go Away”, a personal favorite of mine. As much as I dislike Jordan Knight (I had a less-than-stellar interaction with him back in 1999 when he was attempting a solo career), the boy can sing, and he still can hit those high notes.
At this point, my notes become a little more vague. The problem was that while I wasn’t having a bad time, the screaming all around me was starting to get unbearable. Knowing the show wasn’t a sell-out, I’m sure that there was an attempt to keep the crowd as loud as possible, but it just wasn’t working for me. Maybe I’m old, maybe I’m a stick in the mud, but whatever my damage, I was quickly getting over the show.
After another interlude, the guys emerged from the back of the arena and took to a circular, rotating stage in the middle of the floor for “Dirty Dancing” and “2 In the Morning”, one of the stronger songs on “The Block”. I do like the idea that they really made the effort to put themselves out in the middle of the people that are making this comeback possible. Despite their maniacal screams, the fans around the turntable were very well behaved.
Now, I could tell you how they grooved to “Summertime”, or incited the loudest screams of the night with “Hangin’ Tough”, but that wouldn’t be honest, because I jetted after “2 In the Morning”. Sometimes, you’ve got to hedge your bets and leave on a high note. While I won’t forget my earplugs for another concert for quite some time, it was definitely worth a few hours of my time on a Friday night.