When New Kids on the Block's Joey McIntyre is sitting on a pedestal 20 feet in the air singing "Please Don't Go Girl," he has plenty of time to think.
"I'm pretty present up there," McIntyre says, calling from a tour stop in Fort Lauderdale. "I think about all kinds of stuff. One of the gifts we've had is that in the seven years of being back together, there are still New Kids fans who haven't been back to see us. So when we keep coming back together, we get to hear, 'Oh, my God, I finally met you' and we look out in the audience and see people freaking out. That's awesome. We don't take that for granted."
And there will be plenty of people freaking out when New Kids' "Main Event" tour stops at Nassau Coliseum on June 20 and at Madison Square Garden on June 21 and 22. McIntyre says he and the rest of the New Kids -- Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan Knight, Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood -- are happy about that because they are still having fun and they are still learning new things after all these years.
He says that the way he performs "Please Don't Go Girl," which was the group's first hit single in 1988, on the current tour is one example of how the New Kids are still trying new things.
"Now, the technique is kinda just letting go," he says. "The more I let go, the better it sounds . . . I'm not singing the song. The song is singing itself. I'm thrilled with how it sounds 27 years later. It fits me better now than it ever did. It's really special."
The new approach to their old songs is only one reason why New Kids on the Block continue to fill arenas at a time when many of their contemporaries struggle to fill venues a fraction of that size.
It doesn't hurt that the package tour also features hitmakers TLC and Nelly. "We perform," Wahlberg said at a Madison Square Garden news conference announcing the event. "TLC are performers. They come from our era. They dance. They work. They put effort into the stage show. We learned from the Motown era, New Edition and groups like that and we took it to our level. TLC learned from groups like The Supremes. It's not just a couple of girls standing around singing and making sure that their hair's good. They put it out. And so does Nelly."
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
The New Kids have also put a lot of effort into the design of the show, using an enormous stage that runs across most of the arena floor, with VIP bar stools right next to the stage. "We will be literally reaching down and stealing fans' snacks and sharing their drinks for the show," Wahlberg says.
McIntyre says it took some time for him to get used to the enormity of the stage, but now he has come to appreciate it. "It doesn't feel that big any more," he says. "And it's not too much for the audience. It really works well and production-wise, when we see the photos of what it looks like from the fans' point of view, it's incredible."
Perhaps the biggest tool for keeping the tour fresh is that the New Kids continue to grow, as a group, working on new music that could find its way into the current tour, and as individuals. Wahlberg stars in the CBS drama "Blue Bloods." McIntyre recently wrapped up work on the CBS sitcom "The McCarthys," while Jonathan Knight was a contestant on "The Amazing Race."
McIntyre, 42, says he is working on a one-man show that he hopes to test in Boston this fall and perhaps move to Broadway down the line. "Theater is a huge part of who I am," says McIntyre, who has performed on Broadway in "Wicked" and Off-Broadway in "tick, tick . . . BOOM!" He worries, though, that he may not have the time needed to get a show ready for Broadway in addition to touring and working on the next New Kids album. "You have to dedicate two years of your life to do it," he says. "I'm not so sure I'm ready to do that now."
McIntyre says the "Main Event" tour, which has them performing five or six nights a week in addition to traveling, can be a bit of a grind. But between watching the road crew put up and take down their set every day and his moments of reflection on stage, McIntyre says he can keep things in perspective.
"You see how hard everyone works," he says. "It's easy to keep a level head."
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. June 20, Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale; and 7 p.m. June 21-22, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan
INFO $15-$125; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
5 recent NKOTB hits
Sure, New Kids on the Block's biggest days were in the '80s, when they generated enough mania to make today's One Direction fans seem tame by comparison. But since reuniting in 2008, NKOTB has rolled out plenty of new music to keep fans coming back. Here are five songs that show the New Kids still have the right stuff:
Summertime (2008) This song from "The Block" would be adorable even without the shout out to "Jones Beach, 1998!" at the beginning. Though the beats are current, the doo-wop break shows they can handle any number of boy band styles.
Big Girl Now feat. Lady Gaga (2008) The fact that they could see Lady Gaga's star power just as "Just Dance" was popping, shows their savvy, while the playful banter keeps things light.
Don't Turn Out the Lights (2011) The lead single from their NKOTBSB, their boy-band supergroup with the Backstreet Boys, was a sweet slice of dance pop that showed how both groups had updated their sounds.
The Whisper (2013) This dance anthem is one of those songs that would have been a smash if no one knew who sang it. It could easily hold its own against anything from Avicii or David Guetta.
Remix (I Like The) (2013) The single from "10" uses a driving rock beat and a clever bit of writing to appropriate the musical term "remix" and apply it to a post-makeover woman.