REVIEW: New Kids on the Block in Belfast

FIFTEEN years after burning out in a blaze of panic attacks and 'selective appeal', New Kids on the Block became the latest reunited boy band to take to the stage of Belfast's Odyssey Arena.

New Kids or NKOTB, as their screaming, banner-waving crowd likes to call them were put together by music producer Maurice Starr in 1984, and the Boston-based act went on to sell 80 million albums. Arguably, and for what it's worth, they were the world's first boy band.

Now they're back and so, too, are their fans several thousand of them in Belfast. The Odyssey had been sectioned off, reducing its capacity, but those who were packed into the smaller hall shrieked and yelled at every blast of smoke and spurt of confetti.

The reformed chart-toppers have followed the likes of Take That, Boyzone and the Backstreet Boys onto the lucrative 21st century touring circuit, and arrived in Ulster with a new album, The Block, to promote.

Incredibly, it was the New Kids' or rather, the Middle-Aged Men's first ever Irish concert, and the five-piece made up for lost time by grinding through all the hits from their early years, including the iconic You Got It (The Right Stuff), as well as fresh material.

New tracks such as Grown Man and Dirty Dancing were more sophisticated than the blaring, synth-heavy pop of their classic years, but the two-hour performance was held together by the undeniable charisma of the members themselves.

New Kids had the standard set-up for a boy band. There was the wild card mouthpiece, Donnie Wahlberg, clad in ever-present baseball cap and smooth-talking the women in the front row.

Angel-voiced Jordan Knight was the musician of the group, with vocals that soared on ballads such as Baby, I Believe in You and Give It to You.

Then there was Danny Wood, who came across like a breakdancing Ben Stiller; and baby-faced Joey McIntyre, with the 'ahhh' factor.

But there's always one member making up the numbers, and in New Kids it's Jonathan Knight. Jordan's brother seemed out of step and out of shape, struggling to keep up with his more talented bandmates.

The group alternated between sober, black suits and garish white ones, which seemed to go down well with the overwhelmingly female audience, most of whom were in their late 20s and 30s.

Four shapely dancers put smiles on the faces of the handful of men in the arena, while their better halves ogled Wahlberg's rear end on a 20-foot-tall video screen. The closing number was an extended Hangin' Tough, with the band and dancers wearing Boston Celtics jerseys and banging on about how happy they were to be in Ireland.

It wasn't a highbrow evening, but it was loud, good-natured and, frankly, a hell of a lot more entertaining than most modern pop and rock acts.