In 1993, when The Backstreet Boys came together as a group in Orlando, Florida, no one could have predicted the scope of their success. Typically, teen pop acts come and go leaving nothing behind but a moldy hit or two and a sprinkling of die-hard fans scattered around the globe. The fact that seventeen years after their inception, The Backstreet Boys are still packing them in says something for their fortitude, the loyalty of their fans and, oh, yeah, their talent.
My daughter has been a fan of the group since the time “The Boys” (as their long-time followers call them) began getting airplay and having entire issues of Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine devoted to them. I followed along at first because I wanted to make my daughter happy, but then something strange happened. I began enjoying those songs with their delicious hooks and well crafted melodies. The group members possessed personality and charm that others of their ilk seemed to lack. It stands to reason that in order to appeal to a wide range of the populace and increase your selling power, you must be likable, and not just to the kids. The Backstreet Boys learned this early on.
I’ve witnessed the band during various phases of their long career: from teetering on the brink of fame to full blown Backstreet-mania, when Times Square had to be shut down for their appearance on MTV’s Total Request Live. For awhile they were the hottest pop band going. But time has a way of controlling the ebb and flow of fame. Eventually their U.S. record sales flagged (although in Europe their recordings still do well). A.J. Mclean went through rehab for drug and alcohol abuse, Kevin Richardson, the band's eldest member, left to spend more time with his family. But now McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, and Brian Littrell are on the road with their “This Is Us” tour and it’s almost like the golden days are upon them again.
Their show is a mix of material both new and old and is as much a production as it can be in these economically challenged times. Yes, the requisite dry ice is present, along with four female dancers, who take over the show when the group is off for another costume change. A screen at the rear of the stage is the entrance point for the guys, who burst through their own images to dance and leap down the stairs on either side of a massive platform.
But in lieu of a band there is a lone DJ whose keyboard and drumming skills provide the back up “The Boys” need to give their all. The DJ is an extraordinary performer in his own right and adds a modern touch to what, in lesser hands, could have ended up a nostalgia show. It’s too bad neither he or the dancers are ever introduced to the audience.
After seventeen years, The Backstreet Boys still have the moves; their dancing is as strong as it ever was and their harmonies are spot on. No lip synching for this band. Despite what you may think of them musically, you have to hand it to them for continuing to sing live. Lip synching would make performing easier, especially since they dance their way through much of the show. But they haven’t yet taken the easy way out.
It’s unfortunate their more recent material is not a patch on their older, more melodically accessible tunes. Their most rabid fans, who would cheer if the guys sang a page from the phone book, still scream loudest for hits like “I Want It That Way” and “Quit Playing Games With My Heart.”
Interspersed throughout the show are four short films, depicting each Backstreet Boy in a classic movie (presumably) of his own choosing. Through the magic of green screen technology, each guy ‘acts’ with such stars as Edward Norton, Gabriel Byrne, Vin Diesel, and Samuel L. Jackson in clips from Fight Club, The Fast and the Furious, Enchanted, and The Matrix. This is a unique way of providing entertainment during the costume changes.
The “This Is Us” show is an impressive display. The performance is fast moving and seamlessly produced, and each of the guys is on top of his game. If they can continue to maintain the quality of their live shows, and their hoards of longtime fans remain loyal, The Backstreet Boys will be around for many years to come.Powered by Sidelines