NKOTBSB: We're more refined on tour but there's a s***load of dancingBoyband juggernauts New Kids On The Block and Backstreet Boys talk to Metro about going on the road, inter-band rivalry and why they won't be slowing down too much on tour.
‘There are eight million stories in every boy band… so there are about 16million in this one.’ Joey McIntyre flashes a pearly showbiz trouper smile, despite the fact he’s been up since dawn for a TV shoot. Even at 39, he has a sparkly youthfulness that hints at his past in US late-1980s/1990s boy band New Kids On The Block – McIntyre was just 12 when he joined the line-up.
On his left sits the similarly bright-eyed Howie Dorough, 38, an original member of the Backstreet Boys. Now both men feature in the nine-strong man band, NKOTBSB – with New Kids Jordan and Jon Knight, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood and Backstreet’s AJ McLean, Nick Carter and Brian Littrell. It’s a pop mash-up sparking an age of hysteria. ‘The first time this idea was mentioned, around 2008, New Kids were just returning, so I wasn’t that interested,’ says McIntyre. ‘Perspectives change so much in the music industry.’
Blockbuster pop is certainly not limited to teenyboppers any more. The New Kids’ smash reunion tour came more than a decade after the band’s exhausted implosion; it also echoed Take That’s romance with an older fanbase. Backstreet, meanwhile, never really split, although various members battled addictions (McLean, Carter) and one (Kevin Richardson) quit. ‘Doing this brings out the good and bad in you, depending on how cohesive you are as a team,’ says Dorough.
When NKOTBSB did get the collective go-ahead, it was unveiled with a flourish: at a New Kids’ 2010 show at Radio City Music Hall. ‘Backstreet were in New York too, so we thought it’d be an amazing surprise to get them onstage,’ grins McIntyre. ‘We did an acoustic set, beginning with (Backstreet’s 1999 hit) I Want It That Way – then the curtain went up and these four guys were standing there. The place just went mad – everyone knew how effing cool this was.’
It’s bizarre hearing this former teen fave using ‘salty’ language. What’s even more strange, though, is that both bands should gel so easily as showmen, release a collaborative compilation album and embark on a global tour. They might have shared commercial territory (and a big-time manager, Johnny Wright) but pop fans, like football supporters, are noted for their loyalty and partial to fierce rivalry.
‘Backstreet always credited New Kids as the first group of our style,’ says Dorough, nodding at his pop comrade. ‘When they decided to break, we took the torch and carried on. We were from two different eras but both groups always had some fans that crossover. If we did a show with N Sync, maybe that would clash.’
McIntyre adds: ‘Time Magazine called us the second biggest comeback of 2011 – behind Gabby Giffords,’ referring to the US politician who recovered from a near-fatal shooting. He’s clearly aware of how surreal this seems but also quite pleased. McIntyre seems confident about what makes NKOTBSB work. ‘From the get-go, we came together and made this one performance, so it’s like a rollercoaster,’ he says. ‘Each fanbase gets their group but then we trade off, so the energy never stops. At the end of the day, you gotta give a good show.’
New Kids’ members have used the ‘rollercoaster’ analogy before. Back in 1993, a shattered Danny Wood told Smash Hits: ‘It was going too fast. We were on a rollercoaster, we had to get off.’ In 2012, though, NKOTBSB seem fairly well-adjusted, good-humoured and up for the ride. As McIntyre points out: ‘What guy wouldn’t want to have a bunch of screaming girls in the audience? Everyone’s older, the pitch is not as piercing to the ears – there’s more of a husk to it. And being on the road is different now. There’s wives, kids and…’‘Lovers!’ interjects Dorough, laughing.
Boy bands generally play to type, so have roles shifted within NKOTBSB? ‘There’s similarity between different characters onstage,’ says McIntyre. ‘Donnie and AJ would play on being the ‘bad boys’; we’d all bust each others’ balls. But in a weird way, this also gave me permission to be my best. Before, you’d get so locked into your own group, thinking: “I gotta be more cute than sexy.” The more we allow each other space, the more we come back to the table.’
NKOTBSB’s combined multimillion-selling hit repertoire includes 1989 chart-topper You Got It (The Right Stuff) and 1997’s Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), and McIntyre promises they won’t be relaxing with ballads: ‘There’s a s***load of dancing in this show.’
Their aim, though, remains strictly mainstream. Dorough is already mulling over ‘a Vegas, Celine Dion kinda thing’, while McIntyre cites a classier tradition. ‘Boy bands come from that vocal revue history: The Temptations, The Four Tops,’ he says. ‘We’re really singing for our supper.’
Only now there’s a crucial difference. ‘When we were younger, we were running around like headless chickens,’ says McIntyre. ‘This time, it’s much more refined.’
The six-date British leg of NKOTBSB’s world tour starts tonight at the Liverpool Echo Arena. www.nkotbsb.com