Schoolgirlish giggles and sweet anticipation filled the area around Mata Elang International Stadium in Ancol, North Jakarta, on Friday.
The occasion? A concert by NKOTBSB — two of the most successful boy bands in history, the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys, who have teamed up and left traces of hysterical nostalgia in each city they have performed in during their tour.
Jakarta, it seemed, would be no exception.
Visi Firman, the 33-year-old head of corporate communications for an Indonesian company, was among the many people who had already arrived at the venue in the afternoon, even though the show was not to start until 8 p.m.
“The New Kids were my idols when I was in the fifth grade,” she said. “I had posters of the band all over my room, and I still know all the lyrics of the songs by heart.”
Rebecca Ticoalu, a Hong Kong-based flight attendant, came back to Jakarta especially for the concert.
“NKOTB was the first boy band that I ever fell in love with, and Jordan [Knight] was my favorite,” she explained. “When they split up, it was the Backstreet Boys who filled the void — so I’m here tonight for both of them.”
The concertgoers — you might expect them to consist of women only, but there were quite a few men who passionately sang along to many of the songs during the show — didn’t go home disappointed.
From the second the boy band supergroup appeared on stage, the women were on a quest to test the strength of their vocal cords, screaming like crazy and stopping only occasionally to breathe over the next two hours.
The members of NKOTBSB are clearly not boys anymore, and the fans who came out to the stadium have aged with them, but other than that, not much has changed: At least for this one night, both groups were the undisputed kings of the music world.
As they belted out one hit after the next — mostly they took turns, but also did some mash-ups together — one couldn’t help but realize: Damn, every song those groups released was a chart topper, be it upbeat numbers like “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Step by Step” by the New Kids or “Get Down” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by BSB, or the achingly sweet ballads that melted the hearts of millions of girls.
One of the highlights of the show was Joey McIntyre performing his signature song “Please Don’t Go Girl.” Granted, there is not much left of the angelic voice of the NKOTB baby, but it wasn’t a letdown — if anything, the tune benefited from his more mature voice.
Knight had his moment in the spotlight a little later when he sang “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever).” Even though he had trouble at times reaching the ballad’s higher notes, his fans were forgiving. It simply didn’t matter to them at all.
The Backstreet Boys countered with their own string of romantic songs, of which “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” “Shape of My Heart” and “As Long as You Love Me” turned out to be the most memorable.
A fair amount of surely non-FPI-approved hip-thrusting and sensual dance moves left the ecstatic crowd screaming in hysterical unison. When New Kid Donnie Wahlberg ripped off his shirt (oh mama, not bad for a 42-year-old, not bad), the erotically charged atmosphere reached a high point and beads of sweat dripped down many a woman’s face.
It is more than obvious that the two bands have fun together and enjoy being in the spotlight again. At the same time, they know that this would never have been possible without the unfailing support of their loyal fans.
That’s why they engaged a lot with the audience and showed their gratitude in different ways, be it by inviting four lucky ladies on stage who seemed close to an emotional breakdown (BSB); by thanking the crowd in Indonesian; by going out into the crowd; or by — and this was by far the loveliest gesture of the night — wearing batik shirts at the end of the show (again, BSB).
It was, in particular, Wahlberg of NKOTB and A.J. McLean of BSB — the “original bad boys,” as they said jokingly — who entertained the audience and chatted with the crowd throughout, but Nick Carter and Knight earned the loudest and wildest screams.
Drawing comparisons between the two bands is tempting, and they both have their strengths and weaknesses. But by uniting, NKOTBSB has become something of a demolition bomb on stage, which is the very appeal of the show and it’s exactly what they should be regarded as: a new supergroup, rather than two separate ones.
Complemented by an impressive laser and light show, detailed dance choreography, several outfit changes and a stage with a catwalk-like extension that allowed the members to get close to the fans, the concert was highly entertaining, loads of fun and, of course, a welcome opportunity to bask in times long gone.
The decision to go on tour together may have been the smartest decision yet in the long careers of both NKOTB and BSB, because this new brand sure sells like hot cakes.