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Posted at 9:59 AM ET, 10/ 3/2008

Five Questions for the New Kids Fan

By Anne Kenderdine

I pinned these as loyal fans. (Photos by Lavanya Ramanathan)

Last night, nearly 15 years after calling it quits, the New Kids on the Block returned to Washington to play Verizon Center, no longer kids but men 35 to 39 years old.

And herds of women in their 20s and 30s forked over somewhere between $40 and $80 a ticket (assuming they paid face value), dug out their circa-1989 T-shirts and jumbo buttons from attics and garages and went to see them. And they skipped the VP debate to do it.

In an effort to better understand my Jordan Knight-loving sistas, I went to Verizon Center last night, too, partly to be part of this weird pilgrimage being undertaken by women my age, partly out of curiosity. Who still holds a torch for "Hangin' Tough" -- and seriously, why?

NKOTB was, in fact, my first concert, at RFK Stadium in July 1990. (Full disclosure: I was in the throes of an emotional affair with Jordan, and my mother tells me I was convinced he was looking right at me the whole show.) I don't remember that, but what I do recall, and what my research backs up, is that Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight might have been on fire in 1989, but by the time they rolled into RFK that summer, "The Right Stuff" had begun to seem so wrong. (Sometime around late 2009, pre-pubescent Hannah Montana fans are going to know exactly what I'm talking about.)

At the time, a writer noted in The Post's Weekend section that the New Kids' third album, "Step by Step," had been quickly knocked from the No. 1 position on Billboard by a guy named M.C. Hammer. And four days before that 1990 RFK show, 15,000 seats remained unsold (though filling the 42,000 seats they did manage to sell is no small feat.)

Outside Verizon Center last night, an astonishing 18 years later, I found women who had been at that show, too. I talked with committed fans, husbands of fans, moms of fans, skeptical friends of fans and gaggles of girlfriends-fans so I could understand how a boy band I had moved on from nearly 20 years ago still meant so much to the devoted. Here's what they said:

1. Why are you here?
Brittany Chisefsky, 23, Savage, Md.: "They were the first crush, the first boy band, the first everything."
Brandi Blevins, 27, Pasadena, Md.: "I'm here tonight because my friend who's a fan got great seats. And I want to hear if they can still hit their high notes."
Ruth Odachowski, 30, Ellicott City, Md.: "To relive my childhood."
Brian Tanner, 34, Raleigh, N.C.: "For my wife." ["Best husband in the whole world," his friend tells me.]

2. What was the response from friends and loved ones when you told them you were coming tonight?
Jodi Fochler, 25, Savage, Md.: "Everyone made fun of us. Nobody was very supportive."
Eva Yulina, 32, Vienna: "They think that I'm crazy, but I've been a fan of theirs since junior high. I'm happy they're back together after so long."
Tanner: "I've been ribbed for two weeks. My voicemail has been filled up with people playing New Kids songs."
Laurie Neary, 35, Mt. Airy, Md.: "My husband was just happy he didn't have to bring me. He said to me, 'I hope you don't think I'm taking you.' I said, 'Who says I want you to?' I don't need him to see me like this."

3. Fill in the blank. The next-best band after the New Kids is:
Tricia Richelsen, 30, Silver Spring: "There was never a best band after them." (A friend pipes in: "We weren't fans of anything before or after them. It was just them.")
Odachowski: "Bon Jovi."
Neary: "Is there one? I don't believe there is."

4. Song you most want to hear tonight?
Fochler: "Hangin' Tough."
Blevins: "Hangin' Tough."
Chris Haberkam, 29, Baltimore: "'Please Don't Go Girl.' I'm always singing it. I just want to see it live."
Tanner: "Hangin' Tough, so I can laugh."

5. Who is the cute one now?
Neary: "My heart will always belong to Jordan, but Jonathan is hotter than hot. He is a man."
Greg Packer, 44, Huntington, N.Y.: "I've seen them up close. I'd say Donnie looks the best."
Blevins: "Jordan. He's aged the best. Now that he's cut off his rattail ..."
Christine Dietrich, 31, Savage, Md.: "Jordan, still. Still."
Jay Haddad, 25, Silver Spring: "With this turnout, I think they must all look good."

-- Lavanya Ramanathan

By Anne Kenderdine  | October 3, 2008; 9:59 AM ET
Categories:  Music  
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I saw them in CT on 9/30... it was surreal and one of the the best shows ever!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Best concert i have ever been to!!

Posted by: Paige | October 3, 2008 1:33 PM | Report abuse

That was the most amazing concert I have been to EVER!

Posted by: Karrie | October 3, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

So much fun. It was great feeling 10 again without a care in the world. And Jon wore an Obama shirt. LOVE HIM!

Posted by: Mdem | October 3, 2008 2:29 PM | Report abuse

My friends and I had an awesome time! We screamed, danced and sang our hearts out!

Posted by: Mary | October 3, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow! My eyes were rolling when I, upon arrival, saw the amount of girls decked in buttons, hats, homemade tees, and, of course, the vintage concert wear (brave souls); however, once the concert began, every one of us shared a bond that only a NKOTB fan could understand...that unexplainable feeling that once made us kiss our Big Bopper posters. I saw them three times from 8 to 13 in NY, and they were the best ever last night. Performers, entertainers, and sweet guys who showed a real love for their fans and made each one of us, at some point in the night, say, "He totally looked at me."

Posted by: Kimberly | October 3, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Those pretending to be so much more mature than the rest of us (Lavanya),obviously take themselves so seriously that they can't let go and have fun at what was an awesome concert.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The absolutely best concert I have ever been too!!!! They know how to make their fans feel special. Can't wait to meet them in Philly, 11/5, 5-star VIP BABY!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Stephanie | October 3, 2008 4:30 PM | Report abuse

When I heard NKOTB was getting back together I was kind of doubtful cause of the MTV Reuniting the Band Drama and didn't really rush to get the cd, but my 21 year old brother Travis did, Learned all the songs, and I think became a bigger fan than i was at 10. so we bought section 6 floor seat tickets (so close i could see donnie's broken belt buckle) and I went with him along with Robert and Christine mentioned above and OMG i fell in love with them all over again. Now i'm buying there albums and anything else i can buy including tickets to the NY show. Thanks NKOTB for coming back and capturing my heart again with the greatest concert i've ever been to and for making me feel 10 again. Donnie I still love you. You've gotten Hotter. Marry me LOL i'm finally your age. See ya at the next show.

Posted by: Gina Guzman 28 Savage, MD | October 3, 2008 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Most fun I've ever had at a concert! The nostalgia factor of hearing the songs that I listened to as a teenager combined with my lingering appreciation for cheesey pop music, and the unique bond of all of the fans there in their mid-20s to mid-30s who got into the spirit of things -- what a great night!

Posted by: kma | October 6, 2008 2:50 PM | Report abuse

I was excited for this tour from the moment I heard about it but I was a bit concerned that it wouldn't live up to my expectations (how could it be any better than it was 20 years ago?). I am happy to say that they far surpassed my expectations - I loved every second of it and am going to Philly to see them again! The New Kids on the Block were a huge part of my early teenage years and seeing them again (and getting together with my friends from high school) brought me so much joy.

Posted by: Amy | October 7, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

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