In 2009, The New Kids are once again roaming the Block. There’s just one problem: They definitely aren’t kids anymore.
In fact, most of the group’s five members have kids of their own now. Danny Wood, the so-called “quiet one” of the 1990s boy band sensation, has four not-so-young offspring — two sons aged 17 and 16 and two daughters aged 11 and 10.
So yes, The New Kids on the Block might be a bit misnamed for the new millennium. But this doesn’t really matter to the band’s rabid fans, both new and old, or to the band members themselves.
“If anything, everyone’s gotten better with maturity,” Wood said by phone from Atlanta, on a short break from one of the group’s rigorous practice sessions. “Some of us have been doing our own solo projects, so everyone came back better.”
The reunion that kicked off in September of last year with the group’s first album in 14 years, “The Block,” and a full-scale North American tour, is still going strong. The group started this year out with dates in the U.K., Germany and France, and are in the middle of their second U.S. tour since the reunion, dubbed the Full Service Tour, which heads to Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday with opener Jabbawockeez.
New Kids on the Block, with Jabbawockeez
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, 108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs
How Much: $85, $65, $45, $16
More Info: 587-3330, www.spac.org
The group — Wood, Donnie Wahlberg, brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Joey McIntyre — has some new surprises in store for fans this tour. In addition to a new set list featuring never-before performed tracks from “The Block” and old favorites such as “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Step By Step,” the show will also feature a stage set different from the last American tour’s.
“We’re adapting to the stage; this is the part that’s work,” Wood said of the rehearsals he was in the middle of when he spoke with the Gazette. “We’re changing up the set list a bunch, even the old ones, the order that we do them in, trying to give them [the fans] a whole new experience for the summer.”
According to Wood, if there has been anything difficult about this reunion, it’s rehearsing the dance routines for the stage show every day.
“Getting back into the swing of that was a little more difficult — that took a couple of weeks,” Wood said. “Now, we start learning a dance routine and just fly through it. Everyone just needed to put their time in to get into shape. It just took a little time.”
The music, however, has always come easily, as anyone who has followed the five New Kids’ careers before and after the group’s breakup in 1994 can attest.
The group was originally the brainchild of songwriter and producer Maurice Starr, who sought to create a white counterpart to the black R&B singing group New Edition, which he also managed in the early ’80s. Wahlberg was the first recruit, impressing Starr with his rapping and dancing abilities. Wood, the Knight brothers and Wahlberg’s younger brother Mark (of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch fame and later, a respected actor in his own right) completed the original lineup.
With the addition of youngest member McIntyre after the younger Wahlberg’s departure in 1986, the group became The New Kids on the Block and secured a deal with Columbia. The group’s self-titled debut album failed to catch hold nationally, but 1988’s “Hangin’ Tough” was a winner, producing five top-10 hits and selling 8 million copies in the U.S. alone.
The album assured the band’s influence on modern pop music, with late ’90s singing groups such as Backstreet Boys and ’N Sync taking up the boy band template. But Wood and the rest of the group downplay this.
“I don’t think we think about it too much, [because] we were influenced by New Edition, and before that New Edition was influenced by The Jackson Five and The Osmonds,” Wood said. “It is what it is. Those groups are very similar to us, but they did their own thing, their own music. More for us, it’s a testament to come back 15 years later and have it be as big as it was before; that’s enough for us.”
Indeed, the positive reaction to the group’s reunion may come as a surprise to fans, with “The Block” debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. After a backlash in popularity fueled by accusations of lip-synching following 1990’s “Step By Step” album, the group attempted one more album in 1994, the largely ignored “Face the Music,” under the moniker NKOTB, before breaking up.
Most of the members either took up solo careers (Jordan Knight, McIntyre, Wood) or pursued acting (Wahlberg), and for the most part fell out of touch with each other, with a few exceptions.
“I always kept in touch with Donnie,” Wood said. “He’s the godfather of my children, and we’ve grown up together since the first grade.”
In fact, it was Wahlberg who provided the impetus for this current reunion. According to Wood, everything started with a single song, “Click Click Click,” originally recorded by R&B artist Nasri. The song became the leadoff track to “The Block.”
“Donnie sent me a copy of it; I liked it, and so did everyone else,” Wood said. “We really thought it was a good way to start this thing off. We weren’t going to do this, just a reunion tour; it was going to be a whole new album. Yeah, that was the plan from the beginning.”
The band members recorded “The Block” in 2007, and made their first public appearance together on “The Today Show” on April 4 of last year. At first, only 10 shows were tentatively announced, but things quickly spiraled into a full tour.
“We had no idea; we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Wood said. “We started the shows off with three sold-out shows in Toronto. It’s gone far beyond anything we ever expected.”
But Wood is unsure how long it will last. Wahlberg recently shot a pilot for a new drama on TNT for the fall, and Wood is finishing up a solo record to help raise money for The Komen Foundation’s breast cancer research. It’s a cause that’s close to his heart — his mother died of breast cancer almost 10 years ago.
For now, Wood and the others are excited to be on the road, playing for old fans, and a surprising number of young ones as well.
“I use my daughters as an example,” Wood said. “I never even played them our old music; they got influenced by the new stuff. . . . My daughters listened to The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, all that stuff, and now they love us. Now they’re playing all of our stuff, old and new.”