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Way We Were: Mary-ann Astle talks about her one time favourite pop group, New Kids On The Block

‘POP fans (of a certain age) have cause for celebration this summer – a reformed New Kids on the Block will be hitting the Midlands and the North West as part of a European tour.

The boy band legends will play Manchester’s O2 Apollo on May 30 and Birmingham’s NIA the next day. Although I haven’t rushed out to grab my ticket, it did bring back a flood of memories of my first ever concert.

It was September 1991, I was 12-years-old and manic with excitement at seeing New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) at Birmingham NEC as part of their Magic Summer Tour.

I’d been on a countdown throughout the summer to what I was sure was going to be the most exciting and monumental event in my life.

I’d finally get to see brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood. I’d have them in my sight. I’d get to breathe the same air as them!

Add in that Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch (that’s Mark Wahlberg to you and me now) were also playing, and I’m surprised that at one point in the run-up to the concert I didn’t pass out with excitement.

Being only 12-years-old, my dad played chauffeur and drove me, my 13-year-old friend and her older sister and her friend down to Birmingham for the concert.

My dad surely gets extra parent brownie points for not only driving four excitable girls to a concert, but for sitting patiently in his car in a car park for five hours as we danced, shouted and sang our way through the concert.

I remember the huge crowds – more people than I’d ever seen in my whole life – the immense heat of an indoor arena at the end of summer and the sheer deafening noise when NKOTB finally graced the stage.

I’d spent months memorising the songs – in fact it was the first ever cassette that I’d had purchased for me.

I was word perfect on You Got It (The Right Stuff), Cover Girl, Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), Hangin’ Tough, I’ll Be Loving You, Step By Step and Tonight – to name but a few.

I’d even got the dance moves down (well, sort of).

By the end of the night my voice had gone completely thanks to all the screaming, and I’d danced more than I ever had (or ever will) in my life.

While that’s almost 23 years ago now, the band were known worldwide throughout the late 80s and early 90s.

They released their self-titled debut album in 1986, and throughout their careers have gone on to sell 80 million records worldwide.

They won two American Music Awards in 1990 for Favourite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group and Favourite Pop/Rock Album.

After having disbanded in 1994, several attempts were made to get the group back together, but all of them unsuccessful.

In the intervening years, band members took different directions. Donnie tried to break into acting (films included Ransom, The Sixth Sense and Dreamcatcher) but he had less success than his younger brother Mark (widely known for Boogie Nights, The Fighter and Ted – among others).

Jonathan had a career in real estate, while Jordan and Joey both continued with solo efforts in the music business.

Danny started a Boston-based record label.

In 2008, they officially revealed their return on The Today Show. Their return album, The Block, debuted at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and the supporting tour reached a cumulative audience of over one million people.

In 2011, NKOTB teamed up with another boyband from back in the day – Backstreet Boys – to form ‘supergroup’ NKOTBSB.

The subsequent tour visited North America in 2011. Europe, Australia and Asia were added to the itinerary for 2012.

The tour ranked 44th in Pollstar’s Top 50 Worldwide Tour (Mid-Year), earning more than $10 million. The concert at London’s O2 Arena, in April 2012, was shown live at select cinemas.

In 2013, the release of NKOTB’s sixth studio album ’10’ debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 and, to mark their continuing success, the band will receive a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in August this year.

So although I won’t be booking my ticket for the summer concert, I’ll always have fond memories of NKOTB and be thankful for that night when I danced and sang to the point of near exhaustion.

Do you remember the first big concert you attended? Email waywewere@thesentinel.co.uk

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