If there’s strength in numbers, then the NKOTBSB tour is impressive in manpower alone.
When all nine of the dancing, singing, no-longer-boy band members of New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys were on stage at the same time on Friday at Amway Center, it looked like something close to a teen-pop marching band.
If only ‘N Sync could’ve reunited, there would’ve be enough pop stars to spell out Total Request Live, or some other appropriate pop-culture reference.
Even for a cynic, all that well-aged charisma was magical on Friday, though the crowd that almost filled the arena obviously would’ve been smitten by the time-machine vibe no matter what it sounded like.
To borrow from the combined group’s acronym, the audience looked to be Not Kids Or Teens But Still Believers. On this night, that faith was rewarded.
The ambitious scope of the production was foreshadowed in an epic opener that melded New Kids’ “Single,” Backstreet’s “The One” and Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” into a sonic and visual feast.
With all the Backstreet Boys (Nick Carter, A.J. McLean, Brian Littrell and Howie Dorough) on stage with the five New Kids (Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood and Donnie Wahlberg), it was a crowd. Still, the choreography was understated, meaning that it only looked slightly like a clinic for male models.
Actually, both groups looked and sounded impressive in a generous 2-1/2 hour show that unfolded like a battle of the bands, with the groups trading turns in the spotlight.
It was apparent that the New Kids had more of the right stuff, with everything from “Dirty Dancing” to “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Step by Step” eliciting screams that sounded a lot like 1989.
When it came to ballads, McIntyre offered a show-stopping “Please Don’t Go Girl,” which Backstreet countered with the doo-wop-inspired “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” with the guys joined by ladies from the crowd.
The magic wasn’t quite as potent in Backstreet’s material, but the group had its hometown connection elevate solid versions of “As Long As You Love Me,” “Shape of My Heart,” “I Want It That Way” and other hits.
In another nod to Orlando’s teen-pop roots, the video screen showed a cameo of ‘N Sync’s Joey Fatone in the crowd. Later, that surprise was trumped by a short, superb set by Boyz II Men, joined by the others for “End of the Road.” It was a touch that made the night seem historic.
“It feels so good to be back in Orlando, where it all started for the Backstreet Boys,” said Dorough, who invited his mom on stage.
Opening act Matthew Morrison, known for his Glee role, set the tone for a musical night with a splashy, Vegas-worthy 35 minutes that included dancing, ukulele strumming (!) and fancy footwork in the aptly titled “Don’t Stop Dancing.”
As for the boy-bands, if the grown-up versions can do this, let’s hope they don’t stop either.