Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"It's been a few years and I can't deny, the thought of you still makes me crazy"

"It's been a few years and I can't deny, the thought of you still makes me crazy"

We arrive at the newly re-branded HMV Hammersmith Apollo and there is what can only be described as a queue. And - remember - I queued for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I don't bandy the word 'queue' around lightly.

This queue, however, is noticeable for one thing. It is a very female queue. I suspect I could count the number of men on my fingers. Which probably goes with the territory.

You may ask: why?

One reason (or rather four reasons, and then the proverbial and literal 'Danny' of the group*):

NKOTB @ the Apollo

The reactions of people when I said I was going to see NKOTB ranged from outright mockery to the possibly more worrying 'who?'. Obviously I nearly had to end that friendship, given the realisation that the person concerned cannot remember 1989. And though I have grown into a person who gets excited about Shakespeare and is one of the 65 people in Britain who buys poetry for pleasure and who grades her BwG's by the poetry of their lyrics/voices, there is no denying the 10 year old girl who loved a boyband. Damnit, I'm a 26 year old girl who loves a boyband. And whilst the Kids are just at the edge of my musical periphery (it was to be 1992 and the rise of Take That before I had my first full flushed boyband moment) I am an avid student of boyband lore (I am sure there is a PhD thesis in there somewhere). And, if we are to look at the history of the modern boyband then we have to look at NKOTB. Because for every half-baked One True Voice, Blue or Bad Boys Inc which we can lay at their door, then they also spawned Take That and Backstreet Boys and all the permutations thereof [Justin Timberlake, I mean you]. So this is not just music. This is anthropology.

Oh, okay. When I stayed at Cat's I saw pictures of how much Joe NKOTB had grown up and I was pretty much sold. C'mon, he has beautiful eyes, I don't have that much resistance.

So, the queue outside the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. Lots of women. And I can honestly say that it is the first time that I have been in a queue where the woman in front has offered to share her Chicken McNuggets. These NKOTB fans, friendly. This is what civilised boybanding is like.

Once inside it was to the discovery that HMV have done away with the 'pile everything into a plastic bag' approach to the cloakroom last seen at The Fray and have instead started charging £2 AN ITEM. Robbery. They have not, however, ripped up the wonderful rake which makes the Apollo such a fantastic gig venue. Such a good idea is a rake I am almost tempted to start a campaign for it to be rolled out. Short-gig-goers of the world unite! Aherm. If the rake wasn't enough the general politeness of the average NKOTB-er meant that there was not of the pushing and elbowing malarky which usually characterises such gigs and Cat and I simply wandered towards the front. And as a girl who loves to eyeball performers (I want to see the fear) this can only be considered a good thing.

Not long after we'd taken our positions the lights went down to much raised voices. There was a support act we shall call Rhianna Lite who is, apparently, big in Japan. I cannot vouch for that. But she sang. Her dancers danced. There was something that I think was supposed to be banter. I wasn't really that bothered, other than noting the weird combination of her, Akon and Disney on her forthcoming single. I wasn't aware that Disney were pushing misogyny this season, afterall.

And then - with much buildup of men holding ropes to release the makeshift white curtain - the Kids were on stage. It was at this point that I became pleased that twenty-and-thirty-something screams are a lot less shrill than their pre-teen counterparts. It was also at this point that I realised that put a boyband on stage, flash some lights, stick me in the crowd and I will scream. Because, just metres away from me, that's friggin' NKOTB! I watched them on the Poll Winners Party! I read about them in Smash Hits! And - look - how much Joe NKOTB has grown up!

What followed was well over two hours of pure, slick, energetic boyband joy. Because - and it was not something I remembered - they can actually all sing. Properly without being synthesised or having overly-loud backing vocals. And they can dance! Together, without you ever thinking, hey, aren't they a bit old for this malarky. There was also a perfect fusion between new-and-old, giving all of us a chance to wheel out those 1989 dance moves.

What was maybe so brilliant was that NKOTB have been doing an Arena tour and this was effectively the Arena show but in a 5,000 person venue. So we got them coming up through the floor, the big screen, all the lights, lots of confetti, a wind machine (!), the dances and dancers but also the fact that we could eyeball them. And when I say eyeball, I mean eyeball. And they've all been doing this so long that it comes so naturally - the banter, the jokes, the easy naturalness that pervaded the show. And - in case I should forget - the utter joy. Because you can tell when a performer is simply loving being up on stage, and these guys were loving it as much as the women who were singing the words along with them. And when they came into the audience and we all sang 'Tonight' back at them there was something so utterly magical about the moment that I wished I could bottle it for a rainy day. Because music can be serious and deep and profound, talked about in quiet tones, but that is not the only form of sublime. It can be a joyous, communal, emphatic three minutes of perfection, loudly proclaimed. The ten year old Corinne knew that, and I know it still. And I would not have it any other way.

After the encore, to the obvious horror of their security, the Kids attempted various dives into the willing arms of the audience. For a flash of a moment I quite seriously considered the possibility of plunging further forward to semi-molest Joe NKOTB. Because - what could possibly be better than to touch him? I am, of course, blaming the surge of hormones that such an event must have caused because I am a well brought up girl who knows to keep her hands to herself. Usually.

To say I enjoyed myself as a participant in what was quite possibly a moment of boyband history would be something of an understatement. So - next time you're in town, boys, see you at the Apollo, right?

*Bonus points to any former Smash Hits readers who know about the 'Danny of the Band'.


Anonymous said...

You don’t choose your boy band, your boy band chooses you. And I think I was pretty lucky (apart from the measuring-all-men-against-the-beauty-of-Jordan-Knight part). What an amazing (K)night that was. I feel like we should have a certificate to forever proclaim the We Were There. There at the Hammersmith Apollo the night all five New Kids performed together, a full show, on a theatre stage, in 2009 – when did that last happen? We’re talking decades. The night Jonathan Knight dropped his trousers and showed us his rather delicious, not “even-for-a-forty-year-old”, bum. The night they resurrected “I’ll Be There”, and Donnie Wahlberg drummed! After a fashion. I’m so thrilled that you loved it too. That you felt (and how could you fail too?) the tangible love that flowed, both ways, between stage and audience. Because even after all the other boy band reunions, I never believed that this one, my one, would ever happen. It gives me chills - and a dicky stomach - just thinking about it. My inner thirteen year-old will not be denied. Donnie talks a lot, but one of the things he said recently really struck me; that this reunion is almost a kind of vindication for the fans. It shows we weren’t stupid kids all those years ago, that together these guys really did have something. And they still do. I’m glad you saw that too, it was great to take a trip back to 1989 with you.

Cat x (Original Blockhead, 1989 - )

PS – Obviously I claim my bonus points, I was a devotee of ‘ver Hits.
PPS – It was a black curtain.
PPPS – If I write my PhD thesis on the metapop of “Tonight”, will that make me a Dr of Pop?
PPPPS – I vote for the rake roll-out, but against glo-in-the-dark deeley boppers at concerts.
PPPPPS – The “Property of Joe Mac” t-shirt is blue, just like his eyes...
PPPPPPS – In real life, as opposed to on the pages of SH, they’re all tiny.
PPPPPPPS – New single, “2 In The Morning”, out 23.02.09 ;o)

Anonymous said...

And I never even mentioned the wind machine!


Anonymous said...

Loved Reading This... Made me feel like I was there.

~Amanda~ South Carolina, USA