Friday, September 26, 2008

Just Hangin' (Tough) with old friends

How to put this into words? Um ... let me try this: The New Kids On The Block reunion tour is absolutely amazing!!!
I saw Donnie, Danny, Joe, Jonathan and Jordan first at the Izod Center in New Jersey on Tuesday, and then the next night at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Crazy New Kids fan, you say? You bet I am!

For those unfamiliar, here's a little background: I've been a New Kids fan since their first hit single, "Please Don't Go Girl" came out in 1988. When the guys came to Poughkeepsie's Mid-Hudson Civic Center in July '89, I was unable to go to either of their shows — they played a Thursday gig then added a Friday concert — so I'd been waiting since then to see my first New Kids concert. I got a glimpse of the excitement back in May when they did a 15-minute set as part of Z100's annual Zootopia concert at the Izod Center. That was also the same day (through both sheer determination and a lil' bit of luck) I was able to actually I met the guys before the show!!!

OK, so fast-forward to Tuesday night, when my GF and I danced and sung along as the New Kids played their first full concert in America since 1994! (They started their new tour Sept. 18th in Toronto.) The next night, a fellow New Kids fan here at the Journal and I saw the guys in Long Island.

The best way to describe the experience: It was the most amazing concert I've ever seen in my life!!! Don't believe me? Just check out this video clip I shot at the Long Island show...

I mean, they did just about every hit they've ever had — everything from the aforementioned "Please Don't Go Girl" and "You've Got It (The Right Stuff) to "Cover Girl" and "Step By Step" — to about half of their new CD, "The Block," including "Dirty Dancing" in that video above. Their final encore, the energetic and iconic "Hangin' Tough," was the best way to cap the night.

It was like living my high school years all over again, except instead of listening to CDs, the guys were right there, standing just feet in front of me, singing the songs I listened to ad nauseum.

And sing they did. There was dancing, too! In all, the guys played more than 20 songs — almost all of which were meticulously choreographed — putting together a show that lasted more than two hours. (And that's not even including opening act Natasha Bedingfield, who sounds great live.)
There was an immense main stage, complete with smoke, pyrotechnics and a giant video screen behind the guys that only served to complement the singing and dancing.

But, wait ... there's more!

Emerging through the crowd, the guys came out to a second, smaller stage mid-way through the seating area on the floor, where they performed two new songs — "2 In The Morning" followed by that "Dirty Dancing" — and their classic, "Tonight."

Bringing their music (literally) to the people this way, the guys got up close and personal with fans, the ones who've supported them for the past two decades, and made a lasting connection.

For a tour fans like me have waited 14 years for — and that many people thought would never happen — the New Kids pulled out all the stops, making every day, every month, every year of the wait worth it. And the best news: It's only just beginning. They're heading out across America, then Mexico and Europe over the upcoming months.

Now, I know, some of you are thinking, Dude, you're a guy and you're a New Kids fans?! You betcha! Hey, I've heard it all since I was in high school, and none of that "negativity" (as Donnie would put it) bothers me at all.

I always viewed the New Kids as positive role models — guys you'd want to hang out with and play pool or basketball with. And now, I can add (first-hand) that they put on an amazing concert, and really appreciate their fans ... even if a few of them are guys, like me!

So keep watching out for me, fellow New Kids fans; the guys come back to Madison Square Garden in October. While I haven't finalized my plans, you might find me again in the crowd, singing along with my favorite group of all time in the world's most famous arena!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Out of "The (Starting) Block"

In less than four hours, my fav group of all-time, the New Kids On The Block, kick off their world tour in Toronto!The guys, seen here performing "Step By Step" on their Sept. 1st performance on NBC's "Today" show, will be playing to sold-out crowds first here in North America and then over in Europe.

A fan since I was a freshman in high school, I've already got my tickets for two shows next week ... and I'm working on a third concert for next month! (Surely you remember I saw them live for the first time back in May, when I met the guys!)

Stay tuned to "Sean's Space" for reports from next week's shows! Until them, I'll keep listening to the New Kids' first CD in 14 years, "The Block," and guess which of the new songs they'll play live!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tina's not failin' as Sarah Palin

Hopefully, you didn't miss this past week's "Saturday Night Live," as the season-opening skit was a true classic.
Coming back to Studio 8H, where she began as a writer and then an "SNL" performer, Tina Fey did a dead-on impression of Republican VP candidate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

Between the hairstyle and the accent, Tina did an amazing job, paired up with former "Weekend Update" colleague and "Baby Mama" co-star Amy Poehler portraying New York's junior senator, Hillary Clinton. (This "Baby Mama" poster actually adorns my office here at the Poughkeepsie Journal.)

Even if for only one night, it was great seeing Tina and Amy team up on "SNL" again, and it might be the last time the duo shares the screen for Lorne Michaels & Co.: Tina is the star of NBC's hit "30 Rock," and Amy's set to leave the show for good when she becomes a mom later this autumn.

Without getting too political here (I'll let my buddy over at the "Daddy Diary" do that), I hope we get more chances to see Tina reprise the role of Sarah Palin. I've long thought Tina (and her partnership with Amy) has been the best thing on "SNL" in recent years, particularly since the departure of Saugerties native Jimmy Fallon.

Until then, I'll just keep hitting the REWIND button and watching this gem!

Friday, September 12, 2008

This one's for fans of the "American Man"

It's now just 48 hours 'til the first-ever Hudson Valley Country Fest kicks off at Fishkill's Dutchess Stadium.
You'd have to be living under a rock not to know that Trace Adkins (his "American Man" tour I alluded to in the title here) and former "American Idol" finalist Kellie Pickler headlining acts.

Feel free to click here for all the "Sean's Space" reports about the Country Fest to date, including excerpts of my interview with Kellie, who answered a question from a lucky "Sean's Space" reader.

The show kicks off at 3 p.m. Sunday and should conclude around 9:30. As I post this, the Weather Channel is predicting a 30%-chance of isolated showers throughout the day, with highs in mid-80s. For more on Sunday's weather, click here for the updated Fishkill forecast. Having spoken to local fans excited about going to the show, it will take more than a little rain to dampen their spirits or the show.

So have a great time at the Country Fest, and if you bump into Trace or Kellie, tell 'em Sean says, "Hi!"

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sounds like a "Righteous" flick

Following a summer filled with "Sex and the City," "The Dark Knight" and "Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls," I'm waiting for the next blockbuster to open Friday

"Righteous Kill" here is a $60 million crime drama with an all-star cast: You've got Academy Award® winners like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the starring roles; fellow veterans like Brian Dennehy and John Leguizamo play a police lieutenant and detective, respectively; and rapper 50 Cent tackles his second big-screen role.

Of more interest to me, though, is the role of Detective Ted Riley, played by New Kid On The Block Donnie Wahlberg! (Seriously, you had to know I was going there with this entry, right?!)

Yup, Donnie, seen here in this AP photo from Wednesday night's premiere at NYC's Ziegfeld Theater, continues his long string of law-enforcement roles, spanning TV and film.

For those to squeamish to watch the "Saw" franchise, Donnie played cop Eric Matthews in the second through fourth installments. He played a detective, Mike Ryan, in the 2005 NBC pilot "N.Y.-70," and he portrayed Detective Lipton in 2007's "Dead Silence," not to mention starring as Detective Joel Stevens in the NBC crime drama "Boomtown."

Continuing the trend, Donnie will play Detective Moran alongside Ethan Hawke in next year's "What Doesn't Kill You," set in Donnie's native South Boston.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm writing this for fans of Chris

Having spoken with Chris Botti's people earlier today, I'm working on an interview with the trumpeter for later this month.
The musician and composer will be performing at the Bardavon 1869 Opera House here in Poughkeepsie on Oct. 18th. In the meantime, he's filming his next DVD with the Boston Pops for the next week or so, thus I'll likely be talking to him in during the last week in September.

Having released 10 albums, the latest being last year's "Italia," Botti gained even more fans when he was the band leader for "The Carolina Rhea Show" a few years back. That's the first time I'd seen him play, as I was an avid fan of Caroline, that Canadian cutie-pie!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Pickin' Pickler's brain

In case you missed it, you can click here to read my story in today's Poughkeepsie Journal about Kellie Pickler and her appearance at this weekend’s Hudson Valley Country Fest at Fishkill's Dutchess Stadium.

As I’ve mentioned earlier here, Kellie was a joy to speak with, and really gave me a lot of great stuff to work with. We chatted about everything from her new CD (seen here) and touring with Trace Adkins, to her philanthropic efforts and life after “American Idol.” We really touched on pretty much every base we could in 15 minutes or so.

In fact, there was so much good stuff, I couldn't fit it all in today's story. So I figured I'd use this space (the aptly named "Sean's Space") to share them with her fans.

Whenever I interview for a profile story — be they athlete, entertainer or whatever — I love wrapping up the interview with this question: Everyone knows you excel in (sports or singing, etc.), but is there something you're really proud of that not too many people know of?

I like that question because it gives my readers a fuller picture of the person as a person — not simply an athlete or entertainer — and it's a question I'm sure they rarely, if ever, get asked.

You'd be amazed the answers I get. I once asked a former Hudson Valley Renegades pitcher that question when we talked in the New York Mets' locker room, and he pulled a deck of cards out of his locker and showed me a magic trick!

So, I posed that same question to Kellie — Everyone knows you're a great singer, but is there something you're really proud of that not too many people know of?and here's the adorable answer she gave...

"I'm really a boring person. I'm really not that talented. I can throw a football, but not a Frisbee hardly," she said, before thinking about it a little more. "I used to do gymnastics, and could do splits and backflips and all kinds of crazy stuff on the gym floor. I probably still could if I tried. ... Oh! And I also bring my cats on tour, and I just adopted a dog!"

See? Kellie's not just a singer. But she's a real person, too! If you bump into her Sunday at the Country Fest, tell her Sean says, "Hi!"

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The RNC first, Fishkill next

Just got word that Trace Adkins will be singing the "The Star-Spangled Banner" at tonight's Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Tonight's 7:30 p.m. performance will come just 10 days before Adkins and Kellie Pickler take to the stage at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill for the first-ever Hudson Valley Country Fest. That concert takes place on Sept. 14th, starting at 3 p.m. For a glimpse of all the "Sean's Space" pre-Fest coverage, including part of my interview with Kellie, click here. My story previewing the show will run Tuesday in the Poughkeepsie Journal and on our Web site.

In case you missed it, fellow country crooners like Gretchen Wilson have been entertaining the GOP honchos all week long, with perhaps the biggest star of them all — that being Trace — set for tonight.

Think of it as a warm-up for the Country Fest in our own backyard!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Just got back from "The Block"

So I'm just now coming down off the high of my own "(The) Block" party, as my favorite group off all-time released their first CD in 14 years...
That's right: The New Kids On The Block's first release since 1994, entitled "The Block" (my blue deluxe version of which is seen here), dropped on Tuesday.

A big New Kids fan since 1988, I've been counting down the days for this new CD for months. I eagerly awoke early yesterday morning, headed to Target to buy their exclusive CD/DVD combo, and hurriedly threw it into my car stereo for the ride home.

I wasn't disappointed. The New Kids are back, baby!

Not sure what to expect from Jordan, Jonathan, Danny, Donnie and Joe — though the guys had released singles "Summertime" and "Single" off "The Block" earlier this summer — I was quickly thrilled when I listened to this latest offering, from Track No. 1 to Track No. 17.

Now, he forewarned: These aren't the old New Kids. No, you won't find lyrics like Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh ... the right stuff! on "The Block." Instead, just like their fans, the guys have grown up — Jon and Donnie, for example, are now 39 years old! — and sing about more mature topics.
That being said, here's my lyrical favorite line off the new CD, as sung by Donnie on "2 In The Morning": Gotta know if you're mad at me before "Grey's Anatomy."

Fun. Topical. Fast. Slow. "The Block" touches on all the aspects of the New Kids phenomenon that made them huge stars 20 years ago. Check it out!

With my iPod fully loaded, "The Block" will be required listening until I see the guys for a pair of sold-out concerts later this month.