They left home in the gray pre-dawn and huddled, a large and excited crowd, ambivalent to the bone-chilling rain. And when the moment arrived on Friday morning and a red curtain dropped to reveal the New Kids on the Block, Rockefeller Plaza erupted in ear-splitting screams.
They’re no longer kids, and they were dressed more like very cool professionals than adolescent heartthrobs, but the reaction of the crowd showed that they haven’t lost any of the visceral appeal that launched the archetypal boy band to superstardom 20 years ago.
“These are the kind of fans we have that stay out in the cold and the rain as if it’s a beautiful, sunny day,” Joey McIntyre told TODAY’s Ann Curry and Natalie Morales, who welcomed the group to the formal announcement that they are back together and getting ready to go back on tour.
McIntyre and fellow band members Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and Jordan and Jonathan Knight have been writing songs and planning their return since last August. They wanted to keep their reunion a secret, but rumors leaked out earlier this year.
“We weren’t going to announce this yet, but the story leaked on People.com,” Wahlberg said, his voice barely audible above the shrieks of young women and girls who were barely alive when the band broke up 14 years ago. “We thought we’d better come out and let them know it’s official.”
They’ll be back on the Plaza on May 16 as part of the TODAY summer concert series to perform live for the first time since 1994.
“We’ve got some new material. We’re very exciting,” Wahlberg said. But, he said, the group will remain true to the high-energy choreography that made them famous. “We’re going to dance, we’re going to sing, we’re going to do it all.”
Even though they’re pushing 40, they’re not changing their name, added Wood. “We’re all kids at heart, so it’s not going to change,” he said.
The reunion comes 22 years after the band was formed in Boston and 20 years after the debut of their breakthrough album, “Hanging Tough,” rocketed them to stardom. Over the next six years, they sold more than 70 million albums and made hundreds of millions of dollars.
Wahlberg said he was persuaded to get back together with his former bandmates — Joey McIntyre, brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood — when they decided to record new music. Wahlberg said he wrote 80 percent of the new material with McIntyre and Jordan Knight.
“I had no interest going out on a nostalgia tour and singing the same material,” said Wahlberg, 38.
But, he added: “We absolutely will do the old songs for sure.”
Producer Maurice Starr formed the group in Boston in the 1980s, hoping to re-create the success he had with another teen group from Boston, New Edition.
At the height of their popularity, New Kids sold out world tours, marketed millions of dollars in merchandise and spawned a Saturday morning cartoon.
No longer boys and with their music fallen out of favor, the group disbanded in 1994 and its members scattered off to separate careers. Jonathan Knight went into real estate; his brother Jordan continued a solo singing career and had a platinum single, “Give It to You.”
McIntyre also went solo and got into acting, landing a regular role on “Boston Public” and taking a turn on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Wood went back to Boston, started a record label, and continued to sing. Wahlberg became an actor, a career path that had been blazed by his brother Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg.
They’re no longer kids, and the block they’ll be on is actually Rockefeller Plaza. But for the first time in 14 years, the New Kids on the Block will be reunited Friday on TODAY.
The band will return to TODAY on May 16 to perform their first live concert since 1994 as part of TODAY’s summer concert series on the Plaza.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.