I think it was the summer of 7th grade when we sat there at Giants stadium with our moms, wearing New Kids T-shirts and ponchos to fend off the driving rain. I was a lackluster fan then: one poster in my room, maybe a beach towel and one of those Jordan Knight buttons on my backpack. But it was one of those tweenage rites of passage. Me and my 12-year-old BFF waving our hands, Hanging Tough and swaying back and forth to Joey McIntyre’s high-pitched rendition of Please Don’t Go Girl.Last night, as the 1980s boy band reunited for a Package Tour in the same East Rutherford location, I must sadly admit that I was there.
“So we’re really doing this?” I protested as the tickets were purchased in January. “I mean we’re 36 now. We’re mothers. Do we really have time to go see New Kids on the Block?”
What I meant was: This is stupid. A complete waste of $150. But I conceded. Between karate, swim practice and the hectic pace of my friends’ newborn schedules, it’s not often that we all “get out.” So I took the tickets at face value and chalked it up as a night free of cutting someone else’s food and wiping someone else’s butt.
Then the event approached. The radio started hyping it. My husband started making fun of me. As I got dressed I cringed at the thought of other concertgoers donning neon shirts and legwarmers. In the parking lot, reality set in. A lot of 40-ish women in ridiculous outfits carrying New Kids action figures (still in the box) and draping themselves in those faded 1989 beach towels. As the lights dimmed, grown women started crying. Someone screamed their devotion to Joey or Jon or whoever. It was the same, bat-crazy fan base, only difference was now they were drinking Bud Light.This is surely going to suck.
But then Boyz II Men came out and killed it. Bended Knee, Water Runs Dry, Motown Philly. These guys are still ridiculously talented. This was worth all of the embarrassment. But it was only a five-song set until 98 Degrees crashed the stage with all of their Tribal tattoos and ruined it all. Seriously, there is never a need for that much hip thrusting.Going into the short intermission, the crowd was at a lull. A crappy rendition of Una Noche will do that. (Wasn’t that once in a Doritos commercial?) More Bud Light, more crying for Joey.
Then the lights dimmed, a smoke machine haze filled the arena, hydraulic lifts hoisted the stage to the sky. And the five guys from Bean Town descended in their black skinny jeans and gold embroidered jackets. Yes, they were slower, grayer and singing some brand new songs from an album no one had ever heard of (well, at least I had never heard of, everyone else seemed to know the words).Was it cool? A little. Hard not to smile when you have confetti in your hair and five 40-somethings are up on a massive stage doing the robot. But mostly it was fun. Suddenly I was 13 again, transported back to an 8th grade dance, buying singles at the music store in the mall. You know, that dreamy stage of life when your whole world revolves around friends, music and endless summers of doing nothing but being a kid.
I closed my eyes for a second and could almost see my ponchoed mother sitting next to me. Both of us young and silly, celebrating my very first concert, putting a memory in the book forever. I pictured Erin too and whatever glittery boy band we’ll waste hundreds to see in the future.Nevermind the screaming fans and the shirtless antics – seriously Donnie, you’re 43, shirt it up - it was a good show. And even though my musical tastes have since matured, that bubblegum pop was a big part of my youth. So, as much as I tried not to, it was hard not to sing along. And you know what? Twenty-five years later, a lot has changed. But I still can laugh until I cry with my crazy friends. And yes, I still remember the words.