Show Review: Jordan Knight at Yoshi’s San Francisco, 3/12/2012

by Stacy Scales on March 12, 2012

Jordan Knight, in all his charismatic glory...

Many of you aren’t going to believe me when I say this, but that won’t stop it from being true: the New Kids on the Block just keep getting better with age. Here’s how I know this: I’ve been a fan since I was a first grader. Back then, for me, it was definitely more about cute boys and catchy music than whether or not someone had any actual talent. Happily, though, by the time that ceased to be true, the vocal and musical talents of the group’s main singers had begun to impress me more than I ever dreamed they would. And even if you don’t believe me enough to give them a listen, the photos speak for themselves: these guys are making forty-something look unbelievable. But perhaps I digress a bit…

Having said all this, it should go without saying that when given an opportunity to see them, whether all together as a group (as perhaps a majority will be surprised to learn they’ve been reunited and touring since 2008), or one guy on his own, I’ll move heaven and earth to keep from missing it. Last night, such was the case with the lovely and talented Jordan Knight at Yoshi’s San Francisco. This man has held a very special place in my heart for a very long time, so naturally wild horses couldn’t have kept me from this performance – my first chance to see him solo since 2005. This tour is in support of the recently released Unfinished, in my opinion his best work yet. (And that doesn’t come from a super-biased place, I swear. I don’t think every single album he’s released has been brilliant. This one just is.)

The night began much like every other show with this crowd does: with a little madness and a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. I was thrilled to discover that my guest and I had what turned out to be the best seats in the house. Having heard that there had been opening acts in other cities, we were happy to learn that we didn’t have to sit through one. Before we knew it, Jordan’s two male backup dancers and the band had taken the stage and there he was, singing the new album’s first hit single, “Let’s Go Higher.” This song is so ridiculously catchy and fun, it’s the kind of song you attach memories to easily, and then every time you hear it, it transports you back to good times. Next came “One More Night,” also from the new album, and as Jordan took off his jacket and began to make himself more comfortable for the evening, I distinctly recognized that he made me feel simultaneously like I was twelve again, and happy that I’m not. Next came his first big solo hit, “Give it to You” (from his self-titled album), which is every bit as steamy today as it was the first time I heard it back in 1999.

When asking the crowd if it’s true that San Francisco doesn’t like to be called “San Fran,” Jordan seemed surprised to learn that what most of us call it is simply “The City.” At first, he seemed to think that was kind of stupid, but as girls up front were explaining it to him, he began to understand. He said, “I get it! The Bay Area is a big place, and San Francisco’s just ‘the city.'” He paused to thank everyone for coming, for requesting songs via Twitter, and said that he was already having a good time. He admitted he was happy to have the chance to sing some songs we hadn’t heard in a while, if ever, and then sat at the keys to play a bit of “Broken by You” before going into his fantastic cover of Force MDs’ “Tender Love.” Then came another old single, his beautiful cover of Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” which is an easy crowd favorite. When he said he was going to sing a song called “I Wish,” someone near him in the audience shouted, “sing that shit!” His response? “I will! In a second…” And of course he did.

When he got back up from behind the keyboard, he returned to the new album to sing “Inside,” and then he asked the crowd if we’d be willing to let him see inside our hearts, and inside our minds. Of course, girls frantically screamed their consent. There’s one more thing he wanted to see, he said: “I wanna see your ‘O face!'” The song that followed, “O-Face,” has a great backstory: there’s quite an NKOTB community on Twitter, and it’s not unusual for girls to share great pictures they’ve taken, and often they’ll also be sent to Jordan or the others. When Jordan noticed that girls were commenting about various “o faces,” the idea for the song was born. Because it was inspired (in a sort of roundabout way) by the fans, it’s always a favorite, and this night was no exception. More importantly, though, it’s a perfect example of Jordan’s playful sexuality on stage. There’s something about him that’s really hard to define, but maybe it’s just how comfortable he is in his own skin, and with girls screaming at him everywhere he goes (he usually just smiles, showing them the dimples that make them go crazy), making him all the more irresistible. As the crowd sang along with him, he played another sexy number from Unfinished, “Up n Down.”

The dimples that have been making girls swoon for more than 25 years!

“San Francisco, your time has come to show the world what you got,” he said before starting another song. He needed two people to show the world what SF has, he explained. He wanted someone willing to show off her “inner spunk,” insisting, “I need a rock star! One beautiful, pretty rock star.” He hand-picked two girls from the floor, Kristeen and Cosine. (To whose name he said “that’s what’s up!”) He asked them if they were ready, and went on to tell us that every night, he picks two people, and every night, in every city, they jump up and down for him to choose them, but when they get on stage…they freeze. This was our moment, he said, to prove that “the city” is full of rock stars. He explained that during the next song, the first girl wouldn’t have to do anything (“I’ll do it to you”), but on the chorus she should “go crazy,” that it was her time to shine. “I think you can do it,” he said. “I have confidence.” For the second verse, the same with the second girl. “Let’s see!” He said as he began “Rock Star.” The song is really fun, poppy, and catchy, and I don’t know if it’s true that people have frozen in other cities, but Kristeen and Cosine really did us proud, shaking everything they had during their respective choruses. It was so much fun to watch them, and of course also to watch Jordan grind all over them, undoubtedly making their evening one they won’t soon forget.

When the girls had left the stage, the dancers returned for “Like a Wave,” after which a girl in the front could be heard saying “oh my God. Oh my God. OH MY GOD!” into Jordan’s microphone. He put it back near her, saying “one more time!” Apparently, he’d forgotten his mic was down near the crowd. Addressing the audience again, he said hello to the balcony, and asked us if we had bellies full of sushi and were getting some “sake action.” I know we were all happy to hear him say “it feels good to be in San Francisco!” and then he began scat-singing “I need to hear you say, ‘Jordan… we love you…’ over and over and over again…” and then ending with a heartfelt “I love you too.” Just as the intro for fan-favorite “Stingy” began, Jordan was nearly hit in the head with a lacy black bra thrown at him from the floor. Most of us (including Mr. Knight) just laughed.

“San Francisco’s bringing it!” Jordan later declared. “What did you think about our rock stars? They brought it,” he said. “They represented!” He insisted again that there had been some “tough ones in some cities,” and then admitted how much fun he was having, saying that since the group’s reunion, things have been going “amazingly well,” and sincerely thanking everyone for all the support. He said that things can’t get any better these days, but, “I must say, ‘the first time was a great time!'” which as you might expect, had every single girl in the place screaming, knowing it’s the first line of “The Right Stuff.” That was “back in the day, yo,” Jordan said. “Now…’the second time was a blast!'” Well played, Mr. Knight, well played. It was a silly, charming, and overall perfect intro into such a memorable song. “We got to keep it rolling,” he said as they began “The Right Stuff” without any further teasers. During the song’s breakdown, SF was put “to the test – one more time.” He wanted to see how loud we could be, and I’m sure he wasn’t disappointed, as the crowds “oh oh, oh oh oh” echoed throughout the tiny club.

After JK introduced his band, Elevation Theory, several of them took turns performing brief solos, including synth master “Sensei” who blew us away singing those same “oh oh, oh oh oh” lines through the synthesizer. Jordan left the band on stage during their solos, and returned to the crowd’s hyped up applause, thanking everyone for coming, and saying, “I’m so glad I headed out west. I’ll be back, baby. Better believe it! I better see you all soon!” He ended the show much as he began it, with a chorus of “Let’s Go Higher,” took his bows with the dancers, and after a quick “thank you and goodnight!” he abrubtly left, sadly with no encore to follow.

Even though the set was shorter than I wanted it to be, it’s not unusual for me to be left wanting more with these guys. It was an absolutely terrific show, and just great to be included on the tour (as his final statement may have alluded to, the West frequently gets left out of certain events), and I’m thrilled to have had the chance to enjoy an evening with such a talented and handsome man. I remember when I first heard he was playing at Yoshi’s, I couldn’t believe they’d chosen such a tiny venue. I really feel bad for anyone who missed out because of the place’s limitations, but I hope he’ll come play there again: Yoshi’s ended up being my favorite place to see an intimate show. I hope Jordan keeps to his word and comes back soon!

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise March 12, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Thank you for a great, thorough review. I feel a little like I was there. I do hope Jordan Knight comes West again, but Northwest. I’d love to see Jordan Knight Live/Unfinished, and I also agree that Unfinished is his best solo work to date.

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Jen March 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm

AMAZING show! My gal was THE one to yell for him to SING! He is ever so vibrant and a great looking man. So glad he came to “the City!”

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Maureen Kitamura March 13, 2012 at 9:24 am

Thank you so much for sharing this article! A few friends and I flew from BC to see him and it was so worth it! Your write-up pretty much sums it all up! JK is such a great performer! It was really worth the whirlwind weekend to see him

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