- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2015

For a few glorious years in the late 1980s and early ‘90s, Joey McIntyre and his bandmates in New Kids on the Block were on top of the world, selling out arenas before Mr. McIntyre, the youngest of the Boston quintet, was even a teenager.

Mr. McIntyre’s signature song was the ballad “Please Don’t Go, Girl,” which made full use of his prepubescent high range before it deserted him as he matured.

“I think the fans were fine [with my voice changing] because they were already losing their minds about whatever we were doing at that point,” Mr. McIntyre told The Washington Times about his adolescent vocal changes.

Despite his vocal chords’ transitioning into manhood, Mr. McIntyre said, the fans still embraced the tune even as his timbre darkened. The song, he said, “was really about me. If I wanted to sing the whole song, fine, but it was tough for me as a singer to not be able to sing it the way I used to and be getting used to my [new] voice.”

But just as briskly as the New Kids’ meteoric rise to fame, a swift downfall followed, thanks largely to a cultural backlash that found the bubble gum boy band and their ilk to suddenly be uncool as the Seattle grunge movement — personified by Nirvana and Pearl Jam — with its less-refined sound and more somber subject matter, taking over.

Fans turned against New Kids on the block, which Mr. McIntyre said he and his bandmates — Danny Wood, Donnie Wahlberg (brother of Mark), and brothers Jordan Knight and Jonathan Knight — did not handle well.

“Originally you just dust it off,” Mr. McIntyre said. However, he said, as “Boston city kids if you messed with us, we were most likely going to stand up for ourselves.”

The band quickly became a running punch line in music journals — which Mr. McIntyre said “comes with the territory” — and in the culture as the personification of a has-been act whose fans had outgrown them.

“Our fans had moved on, and they looked at us and that period in their life as what it was — sugary and sweet and kind of nice — and they giggle about it,” Mr. McIntyre said. “That wasn’t easy.”

The New Kids disbanded in 1994, less than eight years after their self-titled debut rocked the charts, and amid lawsuits and accusations of lip-syncing. Mr. Wahlberg moved on to acting and producing music — including brother “Marky” Mark’s 1991 debut, “Music for the People” — while Mr. McIntyre, Jordan Knight and Mr. Wood made stabs at solo efforts. Meanwhile, Jonathan Knight retired to private life.

“I was always going to perform,” Mr. McIntyre said of his solo career, which included the top 10 hit “Stay the Same” from the album of the same name and “Remember Me” for the soundtrack of the film “Southie,” starring former bandmate Mr. Wahlberg. Mr. McIntyre also tried his hand at acting on TV and Broadway — never quite achieving the glory days with his Beantown cronies.

“It’s who I am, you know what I mean?” he said of continuing without the New Kids. “And show business is a bumpy road, and you’ve just got to roll with it.”

In 2007, there were whispers that the New Kids might reunite to take advantage of the flourishing nostalgia tour that was kind to their ‘80s contemporaries — to say nothing of the boy band craze the New Kids helped engender.

In August 2008, the quintet released “The Block,” their first album together in 14 years. The ensuing tour featured such high-octane opening acts as Lady Gaga.

To the delight of the band, not only did their fans, now in their mid- to late 30s, return, but have continued to do so through the ensuing seven years, right on up through their current tour with TLC and Nelly, “The Main Event,” which will stop at the District’s Verizon Center on Wednesday evening.

“It’s arguably [better] this time around than it was before,” Mr. McIntyre said of the now-grown-up group. “We’re getting to sort of travel through time. We were so young back in the day that we’re still young [now],” he said. “So we embrace the nostalgia. Music is so powerful in that way to magically take us back to a point in our lives. For so many people, our music was that vessel.”

Mr. McIntyre, 42, says he and his bandmates, all but one of whom are married with children, feel the backstage temptations far less than they did 30 years ago. Although his family won’t be with him during his swing in the District, Mr. McIntyre said, he has enjoyed showing his children the monuments and museums on previous visits to the capital.

Despite old internal strife and their decade-plus break, Mr. McIntyre maintains that the New Kids are stronger than before and the band members more cohesive than ever.

“We know how lucky we are to be doing what we’re doing,” he said, the Boston accent still evident in his voice. “It’s very cool to be able to do what you love to do, and we get along great.

“And, at the end of the day, you’ve got to entertain. And we know how to entertain, how to put on a great show, and that transcends whatever box you want to put us in. That’s why we’re still playing arenas. You either have it or you don’t. You can fake it for a little while, but not for seven years” since reuniting, he said.

Mr. McIntyre said the quintet still experiences the joy of performing and the adrenaline of sharing the stage with one another. When asked how long the New Kids can keep the party going, Mr. McIntyre was hesitant to speculate but said what’s more important is knowing that the band and the fans continue enjoying a three-decade odyssey.

“After 30 years with our fans, they’re going through life changes, and it sounds corny, but it means something to us,” he said. “When one of our fans unfortunately suffers from something or passes away, that ripples through our relationship.

“We’re going to be growing old together in some capacity. Whether or not that’s on stage, we’ll see.”

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