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August 23, 2014

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Photos: Are New Kids on the Block joining the list of Las Vegas headliners?

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Christopher DeVargas

Jordan Knight of New Kids on the Block performs in the Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

New Kids on the Block at Planet Hollywood

Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block performs in the Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, July 10, 2014. Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Joe McIntyre and Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block perform in the Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Click to enlarge photo

New Kids on the Block performs in the Axis at Planet Hollywood on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

NKOTBSB at Mandalay Bay Events Center

New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys -- NKOTBSB -- at Mandalay Bay Events Center on July 3, 2011. Launch slideshow »

The four nights of “New Kids on the Block: After Dark” in the Axis at Planet Hollywood from Thursday through Sunday — their only four dates in North America this year — seemed like an audition or test run for a residency in Las Vegas.

And the original boyband from Boston passed with flying colors. While there was no use of the incredible LED screens in the Axis, home of Britney Spears’ resident show “Britney: Piece of Me,” no matter.

When Donnie Wahlberg, Joe McIntyre, Danny Wood and brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight, all of whom have been together for more than 25 years, took the stage Friday night, they started off with a bang (there were pyrotechnics aplenty — fire and fireworks — as well as a lot of confetti throughout the night), and the energy of their choreography and their love for performing and their fans never waned.

Powering through hit after hit, plus a ballad section in the nearly 90-minute show, NKOTB, who are thankfully up-to-date with their fashion (white tuxedo jackets, boleros and denim), are rock stars in their predominately female fans’ eyes, and the screaming was piercing at times in the Axis.

To the delight of fans, NKOTB performed often in the crowd. At one point, McIntyre was so close that he could’ve been touched without effort, but it didn’t happen. Why? It’s called restraint.

The audience also showed a lot of love for Wood and Jonathan Knight during their rare solo singing (both are actually quite good, and Wood could be an MMA fighter).

The night’s cheekiest moment: After all the group members except Jonathan Knight returned to the stage, Wahlberg, who is engaged to actress and comedienne Jenny McCarthy, quipped, “Jonathan, get back up here and leave that boy alone!”

While the Axis is more intimate and provides NKOTB fans with an up-close-and-personal show, the group was more rehearsed and sharper vocally in previous Las Vegas shows at Pearl at the Palms and Mandalay Bay Events Center (with Backstreet Boys as NKOTBSB, Mirage headliners Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees, whose founder and frontman, Jeff Timmons, lives in Summerlin).

That said, McIntyre belted it out with the best of them on Broadway (as his resume include Broadway), and Jordan Knight’s falsetto remains impressive at age 44, especially in “I’ll Be Loving You Forever,” the band’s first No. 1 song. (All the members of NKOTB are in their 40s now, McIntyre the youngest at 41.)

The setlist of “NKOTB: After Dark”: “Crash,” “Remix (I Like The),” “Summertime,” “The Right Stuff” (with extended crotch-thrusting), “The Whisper” with LMFAO’s “Shots” mashed, “Survive You,” “(Didn’t I) Blow Your Mind This Time,” “Valentine Girl,” “If You Go Away,” “Boyfriend,” “Please Don’t Go Girl,” “Block Party” in the crowd, “My Favorite Girl” mashed with Will.I.Am and Spears’ “Scream & Shout” and “I’ll Be There” by The Jackson Five.

Also: “Careless Whisper” by Wham, “Faith” by George Michael (during which McIntyre teased to a nearby audience member, “Dude, you’re on your cell phone. I was going to sing to you!”), “Kiss” by Prince, “Hot in Herre” by Nelly, “Tonight” in the audience, “Step By Step” mashed with Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” “Cover Girl” in the audience, “Games,” “I’ll Be Loving You Forever” with Jordan Knight onstage alone in all white and “Hanging Tough” mashed with Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”

Thanks to Christopher DeVargas of the Las Vegas Sun for his photo gallery of “NKOTB: After Dark” on Thursday night, and check out the Q+A with Jordan Knight posted early Thursday morning ahead of the four-night stand.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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