New Kids on the Block members Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight sat down for a panel discussion at the Billboard Live Music Summit on Wednesday (Nov. 14) to reflect on relaunching their boy band careers 10 years ago in 2008 with a reunion tour.
The New Kids on the Block Live tour in 2008 reunited the five members for the first time since 1994 and reignited their careers along with a wave of demand for nostalgia touring.
“We’d make an impact if we did a tour. We knew that for sure,” Jordan Knight told the crowd during the Hangin’ Tough: 30 Years After Capturing the World By Storm, New Kids on the Block Are Bigger Than Ever panel at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills about launching that first reunion tour. “We didn’t know we would be doing it 10 years later.”
“Initially we just saw what was right in front of us that first year, not anything beyond that,” added Wood. “We started out with 10 shows on sale and they all sold very well. Then things moved from there to a full-on tour and that’s all we thought about.”
The first reunion tour concluded with 150 North American and European dates between 2008 and 2010.
Jonathan Knight explained that the tour came together after meeting new manager, Jared Paul, founder and CEO of Faculty Management and Productions.
“That initial meeting with Jared was amazing,” said Knight. “That’s when I felt we were finally in good hands and it was somebody who could lead this brand and lead this group into amazing things.”
Paul — who was on the panel along with Faculty Management general manager Janelle Lopez and CAA agent Alli McGregor — was asked by moderator, Billboard’s editorial director Jason Lipshutz, if he saw the longevity of the NKOTB tours to come from that initial meeting.
“These guys are the salt of the earth and what people don’t really understand about New Kids on the Block is that they are true entertainers from Boston. It is Rocky story,” said Paul, who added that he was a fan of the band growing up.
Paul said they could only book seven shows in the beginning, but having a team like Lopez and McGregor who believed in the value of the band as much as he did pushed them to where they are today. The band has sold nearly 2 million tickets in the past 10 years.
“They have been professionally active as touring artists through their comeback much longer than they were in their heyday,” said Paul. “It was [the band] taking it seriously and I think giving people more than they expected, which is why we’re sitting here and just announced a 55 city North American tour.”
“We just nurtured what we were doing. We made sure that we stayed in touch with fans on social media. We made sure that shows were really good and tight,” said Jordan Knight. “We made sure we gave people what they wanted with the hits and the choreography and stuff like that, and it just kind of took care of itself.”
Getting back on stage after 14 years wasn’t the most seamless process, the band admitted.
“I remember the first day of dance rehearsal people on the ground stretching and getting limber,” said Wood, who added they had to relearn the basics of their dance lessons. “It was also weird to be around each other again because I haven’t seen these guys in so long. Everyone’s lives had changed.”
“Having a band that is willing to work as hard as they are partners has been great,” said McGregor. “Every set of dates that we put on sale we look at it as how can we be creative and different and don’t take anything for granted.”
“We were really on the frontlines of nostalgia touring in the pop space,” said Paul, who explained that only classic rock bands were riding the nostalgia wave before the New Kids reunited.
Paul added: “What we have learned through the process is that you can count a band out, but at the end of the day, if [a band] means something to someone especially in their formative years, they take that connection to the band and pack it up in a closet in the garage. If you give them the chance to unpack that emotion, they will respond.”
“We made an impression on people when they were very young and people want to get away from their everyday lives for two hours to forget about everything and relive their youths,” said Jordan Knight. “We are very aware of that and we make sure we sing all the hits.”
“I remember pulling up to the boat in Miami and [the band] being so nervous not knowing how that experience was going to go being a boat with that many fans,” Lopez said about the initial cruise. The band “really commits to the things that we’re doing,” she continued, “On the cruise we will have theme nights and every single night the guys will show up dressed better than all of the girls on the boat.
“That’s what makes these guys so successful. We are creating these experiences for the fans where they feel like they are friends with the guys. It’s something that they can’t miss and want to keep coming back to.”