Culture / Entertainment

The New Kids on the Block Embrace the Ladies, Turn the Houston Rodeo Upside Down, Proving Boy Bands Needn’t Have an Expiration Date

In On the Joke and Laughing All the Way to the Afterparty

BY // 03.08.23

Make all the jokes you want. Middle aged guys in the gated community, old men at the retirement condos. . . the New Kids on the Block came to Houston in on the joke and ready to rock the NRG block for their debut performance at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Sure the Kids — Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood and Donnie Wahlberg, no one forgets Donnie — are no longer boys, but that’s just elevated them from teen dream to steamy Daddy status.

And boy, have these kids grown to fill out a tight black T, even tighter pants and a cowboy hat.

From lights out to a fireworks reveal, the fab five danced and sang the night away on an almost completely bare rodeo stage. These kids didn’t need any human or tech backup, which was probably a safety consideration as they practically ran and danced a marathon up and down the star-shaped stage. They needed room to roam.

As the O.G ’80s boy band that brought back the boy band model and then ushered in another three decades of an international pop phenomenon from NSYNC to One Direction to the rise of the K-pop boys, the New Kids can still get it. And by it, we a mean a frenzied NRG crowd energized by the Kids’ so, so, so many hip thrusts.

While this might have been these Boston cowboys’ first rodeo, it certainly wasn’t their first trip to Houston. With age comes experience and the New Kids on the Block reveled in their years touring and singing to that elusive “girl” who keeps loving and leaving them.

During one of their many declarations of Houston love, Donnie Wahlberg reminisced about one of the New Kids’ early 1990s concerts in the Astrodome, saying it felt like just yesterday. The Kids do seem to really love two things — Houston and that girl who keeps slipping away. Taking a breather later in the concert, Wahlberg even took off his cowboy hat to don a sparkling Astros cap and declare the spirit of Houston had touched and inspired the New Kids this trip.

Well, specifically the Bayou City’s spirit and talent for partying.

Ladies Night is a New Kids Thing

Early in the concert, the New Kids on the Block turned RodeoHouston’s ladies night into ’80s night. They worked their classic boy band moves through all their girl-themed songs from “My Favorite Girl” to “Covergirl” to “Please Don’t Go Girl,” and hit 1980s and 1990s highs with “Right Stuff” and “Step By Step.” Each of the guys got their moment to vocally shine with Joey McIntyre’s “Please Don’t Go” and later Jordan Knights’ “I’ll Be Loving You” highlights as their voice soared into the NRG ceiling while the emotions dragged them down, until they ended kneeling on the stage.

These New Kids made many’s night, week and year with “Tonight,”as all five jumped from the stage and raced across the vast dirt floor to embrace, sometimes literally, the Houston Rodeo crowd. Donnie Wahlberg (always the sexy troublemaker) even hopped the fence and climbed into the first row.

The New Kids on the Block certainly brought it for their Houston Rodeo concert. (@RodeoHouston)

These wise Kids knew many of the fans were singing along to all their favorites and so made everyone work for it, with an actual sing-along medley of recorded 1980s greats from Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” to Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody.” They were also unable to resist another good (party) girl song — Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

The guys belted with the crowd and then cut the music at each chorus for a rousing crowd A cappella rendition. Then everyone joined in for the Big & Rich rodeo staple “Save a Horse [Ride a Cowboy].”

Amid all their other projects, including acting and producing, the New Kids on the Block continue to make beautiful new music for the 21st century, with songs like “Summertime,” “Remix” and their killer opener “Block Party.” They rapped the lines “Twenty-five years, still got ‘em packed/Them other kids thought they had us backed in” with both an ironic wink and all the swagger of kids who grew to manhood in the spotlight.

Yes, they’re in on the joke and laughing all the way to the afterparty. They ended the night (or at least the Rodeo concert portion of it) back in the ’80s with “Hangin’ tough.” Hopping into a truck and singing their way out, they may not be new to the block or even the Houston Rodeo anymore but, girl, we’ll hang with the New Kids for as long as they keep loving Houston.

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