Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Kids next to 30 Rock

Talk about going out with a bang!!!
As if meeting my favorite group of all-time wasn't cool enough, I was lucky enough to be in the audience for the New Kids On The Block's final two shows of their "Casi-No Tour" at Radio City Music Hall last weekend.

Unable to attend the first of their final three shows, I made sure to snag tickets for the last two.

Originally scheduled back in January as the New Kids' lone Radio City Music Hall show — this was their first time at the famed theater, btw — Friday's show turned out to be the penultimate show of their brief tour, one of only 16 concerts that Joe McIntyre, Jonathan Knight, Danny Wood, Donnie Wahlberg and Jordan Knight performed in all of 2010. With so few dates, and a few so close to home, I had to be there. As a fan of the guys' since 1988, I was glad I was there!

The music was amazing (as always). The ambiance of seeing them in the 78-year theater was great. And each night was an event, not simply a concert.
During Friday's show, for example, the guys even presented the Komen Foundation with a check for $110,000, which they raised from all their work supporting breast cancer research since they got back together.

From the opening lyrics of "Single" straight through to the final bows after "Hangin' Tough," you could tell the New Kids appreciated the Big Apple crowd, even getting visibly emotional when talking about what it meant to play Radio City some 20-plus years after they first hit it big. You could tell the moment meant even more since it was the culmination of their comeback. As a fan for more than two decades, it was great to see them enjoy the moment and share it with all of us.

As big of an event as Friday was, Saturday's tour finale was even more eventful.
As memorialized in this publicity shot released by the New Kids, the guys welcomed the Backstreet Boys to the stage for two songs. Though never a BSB fan — and there were many fans sitting around me — I liked hearing the guests thank the New Kids for paving the way for groups like them.
Between the famous venue, the historic nature of the shows and (oh, yeah!) the music, it was a great weekend in the Big Apple, well worth the train rides via Metro-North.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Putting the "Toy" in "Toy Story 3"

Just in case this past weekend wasn't enough fun and games, here's another example of the great time I had.

After meeting the New Kids On The Block, I had a few hours to kill and walked downtown to Times Square. Toys R Us is always a popular stop for me — I peruse the "Star Wars" action figures there ... so sue me! — but this caught my eye even before I got to that second floor. You (yes, you!) can be a "Toy Story 3" toy at the Times Square store by simply stopping by and standing inside the life-size action figure box. Big enough for adults to fit inside (though I didn't), the packaging is an exact replica of the box that the actual action figures come in.

Being that the movie came out the same day I was at the store, there was a definite Buzz (Lightyear) about the chance to get your picture taken here.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A new chance to meet the New Kids

Meeting your favorite singers of all-time, who you've listened to for years, never gets old. Believe me!This weekend, before my first of two New Kids On The Block concerts at Radio City Music Hall, I was one of a few lucky fans who got to greet the New Kids as they entered the building.

You can have $375 pre-show meet-and-greet packages with the New Kids, but I find it much more satisfying to meet the guys — for the uninitiated, that's Jordan Knight, Jon Knight, Joe(y) McIntyre, Danny Wood and Donnie Wahlberg — for free on my own.

Thanks to dedication and patience, a couple dozen of us fans were outside Radio City when the New Kids arrived for Friday's performance — Joe, Danny and Donnie first, as seen above...

...followed by the Knight brothers just a few minutes later.

Ever gracious, the New Kids were kind enough to spend a few seconds with their dedicated fans. And we appreciate it!

Look, I know it's never going to get better than my first meeting with the New Kids, so any chance to see the guys, like back in January, is a bonus. I look at it as the payoff for "Hangin' Tough" with the New Kids since 1988!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hearing the "Glory" in their "Voices"

Just got back from seeing Highland's favorite singing siblings, the Voices of Glory.

The Coles (seen here from left, Michael, Nadia and Avery) performed their second show in Dutchess County in less than 24 hours, singing at the New Hackensack Reformed Church in the Town of Wappinger; they sang in Rhinebeck last night. The shows were part of the Rhinebeck Choral Club's 65th anniversary celebration, and the Voices of Glory were the club's guest artists. The Voices of Glory, who were competing on NBC's hit show "America's Got Talent" this time last year, proved why they finished fifth overall out of some 100,000 acts that auditioned for the competition.

Having interviewed the Voices of Glory several times over the past year, including earlier in the week for a story promoting their local appearances, I'd never seen the trio sing in person. Sure, I'd watched them perform on "AGT" last summer, but seeing them in person was a totally different experience.

Between belting out Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All" to a stirring rendition of "God Bless America," among others, each of the singers displayed their powerful voices, which filled the room.
Earlier in the week, Nadia told me of all the songs the group performs, "Greatest Love of All" is her favorite.

"I just enjoy that song," she said. "It's telling people never to give up, and that you have to love yourself and don't let anyone else bat you down."

Listening to the Rhinebeck Choral Club sing uplifting tunes — everything from John Lennon's "Imagine" to "The Rainbow Connection" — a treat enough. Add in the inspirational Voices of Glory, and we had a great afternoon for a great cause, as today's performance (as was last night's in Rhinebeck) benefited the Cole family.

With the Coles traveling the country, pursuing their careers and soon to release their debut CD, it was great to take in one of their appearances and see firsthand how Michael, Avery and Nadia touch so many of the people for whom they sing.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Raising their "Voices" for "Glory"

Of all places, I found this flyer in the break room here at the Poughkeepsie Journal today.

In case you missed my earlier post, Highland's Voices of Glory will sing at a pair of local performances this weekend. The shows — Saturday's is in Rhinebeck, Sunday's is in Wappingers Falls — will mark the first time the group (17-year-old Michael Cole, 14-year-old Avery Cole and 10-year-old Nadia Cole) has been back in the Hudson Valley since March. The shows are part of the Rhinebeck Choral Club's 65th anniversary celebration; they will also serve as benefits for the for Cole family, which has moved to Branson, Mo., to pursue their singing careers. The Voices of Glory, you might remember, placed fifth overall in last season's edition of the NBC show "America's Got Talent."

I spoke with the Cole siblings earlier this week, and they were thrilled to come back to the Hudson Valley.

"They're still our No. 1 supporters," Michael told me. "I just can't wait to get back."
Check out tomorrow's edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal or our website to read my full story on the Coles and this weekend's upcoming performances.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Party like a Rock (Band 2) star

If I look tired these days, there's a reason: I'm a rock star!

After years of resisting, I entered the video-gaming realm over the weekend and bought my first system since the late '90s, when I bought the original Sony Playstation.

Making up for lost time, I splurged and treated myself to the deluxe "Rock Band 2" bundle, complete with a wireless guitar, wireless drum kit, a microphone and ... oh, yeah, the actual video game.Let me just tell you, I cannot put this thing down! Wake up in the morning, I can play music. Late at night before bed, I can make even more music. This thing is soooo addictive!

Sure, the game has been out for almost two years, but it's still new to me, and I'm lovin' it! Admittedly, the whole "Rock Band" phenomenon was one of the main catalysts for me shelling out the money for a new gaming system — not to mention the prospect of buying "The Beatles: Rock Band" in the coming days — and so far, it looks like it was definitely money well spent.

I might even go on tour — just me, my "Rock Band 2" game, guitar, mic and drums!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Celts vs. Lakers brings out hit-makers

Need some music to get you pumped for the NBA Finals? One of my favorite singers has got ya covered!

Boston native Donnie Wahlberg, one of the leaders of my fav group of all-time (New Kids On The Block) and a devout Celtics fan — he's even in the front row of Game 1 tonight in L.A. — has just released his "Lakers vs. Celtics Mixtape," a collection of music to get you ready for tip-off.

From some of his own music to some tunes from his protégés, Donnie's released 49 minutes, 59 seconds of free jams to accompany what he hopes will be a Celtics series win. You can just click here to download the mixtape.

Can't get enough of D-Dub (as he likes to call himself)? Come fall, you can catch Donnie every Friday night at 10 p.m. as a police officer on "Blue Bloods," a new drama set to begin airing on CBS, which released this promo picture. On the new series, Donnie plays a cop — it's a familiar role for him — and he'll star alongside Tom Selleck on the show, which is set in New York City. Next July, he'll star in "Zookeeper," a movie shot recently in Boston's Franklin Zoo, in which he'll star with Kevin James and Rosario Dawson; stars like Adam Sandler, Sylvester Stallone and Jon Favreau will lend their voice talents to "Zookeeper."

Until then, enjoy Donnie's free hoops tunes!

(PS: Am I the only one who remembers making actual mix tapes? Ya know, those cassette tapes that you'd spend hours creating on your cool stereo, adding a song from this CD and another from that CD and on and on 'til you had all the best songs on one tape. Ah, the good ol' days! Of course, iTunes and CD burners made those obsolete and now Donnie's made even those CDs passé with his downloadable "mixtape.")

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Must've been hard being Half-Pint

Let me just say it: I would have died growing up in olden times — no doubt about it.

Having gone just a couple hours without power this morning, I can't imagine how the Ingalls clan survived back in the "Little House on the Prairie" days. With nothing but a Walkman that picked up AM radio to "entertain" me — and I use that term very loosely — this morning, I was all but lost without my 21st-Century comforts. After some 90 minutes, I had to leave the house. God only knows how Ma and Pa Ingalls, let alone Mary, Laura and Carrie made it through those rough days in Walnut Grove lo those many year ago.

With that short lack of electricity this morn, I had no TV, no DVD player, no Playstation 3, no phone ... you see where I'm going with this. I can't imagine what it must've been like living during the "Prairie" days.

I used to have a joke that went like this: "Oh, this is my favorite episode of 'Little House on the Prairie' ... the one where the Ingalls endure some kind of hardship!" For me, just living in the olden days would have been hardship enough.