New Kids on the Block's Jordan Knight is also happy still touring with his old bandmates

IN CONCERT

Jordan Knight

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When: Sunday, 7 p.m.

Where: McPherson Playhouse

Tickets: $51.75 to $91.50

Jordan Knight has developed a solid outlook on his career, one that has ebbed and flowed in dramatic fashion since his arrival as a pop star in 1986.

More than anything else, Knight is equipped to handle the pressure that comes with being famous nowadays - more so than he was as a teenager when his group, New Kids on the Block, sold 80 million records and $400 million worth of merchandise during the late 1980s and early '90s.

"You're not worried about what people are thinking, or if your next record is going to be a hit," Knight, 42, said from his home in Boston. "There's none of those kinds of thoughts. It's smooth sailing now. We're all comfortable in our own skin."

Knight and his fellow New Kids have begun recording the followup to 2008's The Block, the group's first studio album following a 14-year break. At the moment, he's occupied with details relating to his Canadian solo tour, which stops Sunday in Victoria at the McPherson Playhouse.

He's ecstatic about the state of his career in 2012, having weathered the lean years following the dissolution of NKOTB in 1994. Knight - a sober, dashing, happily married father to two boys, ages five and 13 - is now able to balance all facets of his life, an outright impossibility during the world-domination years of NKOTB.

"I have the best of both worlds," he said. "Back then, it was too much. If I went to the mall, you'd have to shut the mall down. Now, I can go to the mall, sign a few autographs, and a few people pat me on the back and I'm on my way."

After a tour with NKOTB wrapped in June, Knight took the summer off. He vacationed in Cape Cod with his wife and children, a way of recharging his batteries for the solo tour that is currently underway in support of his fourth solo album, Unfinished.

Knight loves being back in Canada, the site of NKOTB's resurrection in 2008 and the country for which he has an official passport (both his parents are Canadian). Canuck audiences are always incredibly nice, Knight said, stopping short of comparing them to American ones.

NKOTB always had a love-hate relationship with audiences south of the border, in part because of one major misunderstanding. Much of the criticism levelled at one of the preeminent boy bands in pop history was from whites accusing NKOTB of being pop impostors pretending to be black.

That's the irony of it all. Black audiences had no problem with them whatsoever, Knight said.

"When we came up, most black people who saw us do it liked the music. They saw that we were genuine, and felt comfortable with us. We weren't scared or afraid - we just wanted to entertain."

Knight and two of his bandmates, Donnie Wahlberg and brother Jonathan Knight, were born and raised in Dorchester, Massachusetts, a segregated, primarily black inner-city neighbourhood. When it was time to enrol in high school, the two Knights and Wahlberg were bused out of Dorchester to a school in nearby Roxbury, as per a state law that ordered school districts to desegregate.

It wasn't easy, but being exposed to different musical cultures is what gave NKOTB - who were put together by producer Maurice Starr, a black concert promoter who worked a similar magic with New Edition - a leg up on the competition right out of the gate.

"All of our very first shows were in front of black audiences. He didn't send us into white neighbourhoods. All of his connections were in the black music world, so we were brought up in that."

The us-against-the-world mentality kept NKOTB members together through the unfathomable highs and perilous lows. That the original group is still together speaks to a lot of things, Knight said, not least of which is the core friendship that binds the group.

NKOTB will have a new CD in the spring, which is to be followed by a summer tour. Once his solo tour wraps, Knight will switch back into gang mode, a mentality that NKOTB had to adopt to survive a business that often eats its young.

"When you're new and fresh and on top of the world, the world is holding you on a pedestal," he said. "There's a lot of people that want to knock you down." mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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