A couple of weeks ago, I went to the NKOTBSB concert with my elder sister. I didn’t pay for my ticket so my conscience is clear. It was enjoyable, but I couldn’t help thinking that somehow, somewhere, in whatever little slice of paradise he’s currently making better, Bill Hicks is very disappointed in me.

I listened to boybands growing up, because that was just what was in the house at the time, but as I got older and discovered bands who could play instruments (with chords and everything!), I grew out of it. I didn’t know what to expect from the gig. The production was very nice, slick. The best bits came from the unscripted, genuine moments. The bands worked well in the one or two songs they had together, but when they were separate, the differences were very plain to see. I liked the Backstreet Boys. They were funny, flirty, ran into the crowd several times to kiss girls, touched hands, waved, played with fans’ signs, were very sincere and loving towards their fans and what they were doing. There was a marked contrast between them and New Kids On The Block.

NKOTB seemed a little, well, strange. I don’t have much memory of them, to be sure, but there wasn’t that life, that playfulness that BSB had in their performance. One or two members of NKOTB had that life, and were playing around and kidding, but the whole wasn’t so cohesive. (I will exclude Donnie Wahlberg from all this, he’s pretty awesome.) Some band members looked uncomfortable. Some took it way too seriously, or maybe not seriously enough. There were two massive ballads and at the end of each of them both singers dropped to their knees, both looking like they wanted to burst into tears, moved by the sheer emotion of the insipid, syrupy mess they just belted out. I thought it was insincere, melodramatic trickery, them brutally utilising the stage techniques they learned over 25 years ago to best incite the hysteria of a teenage audience. Then, I realised it was something more sinister – they were believing their own bullshit.

BSB don’t believe their own bullshit. They are doing something they genuinely love, but they know that the songs they’re singing are silly, and they change them up, change the music, rock out and play. They play their hits, but also obscure songs from earlier albums. They still do their dance routines, but regularly stop to reach out for the hands of their fans or even surprise them with a quick kiss. They never stopped, because they love what they do, they know their fans do as well, and they love their fans.

NKOTB were rigid, not nearly so interactive. They played mostly ballads so sickly I thought I was going to go into a hyperglycaemic attack, mostly songs from their earlier teenage albums, and not the later, more adult ones. There was so much falsetto I thought their microphones were going to blow. The dry ice machine was working overtime. One or two of them rebelled and had a great time working out of the routine, but the others stuck to it. I have no doubt they also love what they do, but they believe in their own bullshit. They believe in every single song, most of which contains the words ‘baby’ or ‘girl’ or even ‘baby girl’. BSB know they’re a pop group. NKOTB think they’re serious artists, and that’s where the problem lies. Even while I was watching them, Bill Hicks’ description of NKOTB and various now-faded 80s pop stars sucking Satan’s multi-headed Hydra-like cock was running through my head.

Look, I know I had a point in here somewhere. It’s not to disparage NKOTB’s performance, which was perfectly adequate, but I guess it left me unsettled. As I said, I listened to boybands growing up, but even then I could see through the insincerity of pop music, the formulaic blandness designed to attract young girls like me, to give them a perfect idol to fall in love with. I grew up, explored on my own, found rock music and other music, music that comes from the hearts and brains of the musicians and not those of the popstar makers. BSB have thrown the deadly seriousness out the door, given a knowing wink to the fourth wall and do it for the fun and love of their fanbase. NKOTB still think it’s 1989, and that they have to seriously convince and win over those teenage girls again, make them like them. Those girls have grown up, gotten married, had children and moved on, NKOTB a loving memory from their younger days. NKOTB are still trying to make those days real again, and that’s what bothers me.

So, what do you think? Have you seen NKOTBSB perform? I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts.

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