My God, they’re back.
The Backstreet Boys passed through Winnipeg for the second time on their pandemic-interrupted DNA World Tour on Monday night – but the fact that they were here in July 2019 didn’t stop nearly 12,000 screaming fans (and largely millennials) to pack their bags at Canada Life Center for a night of nostalgia and skillfully produced pop.
August 29, Canada Life Center
★★★★ out of five
Arriving on stage just after 8:30 p.m. in an explosion of smoke, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean and Kevin Richardson – perfectly choreographed, of course, down to their coordinating red and black outfits – pushed back to ’96 and a opened the show with I want to be with you 2000s follow-up The call and I don’t want you to come back from 1999 Millennium. They know who their audience is and exactly what they want to hear.
The Backstreet Boys have been titans of pop since storming the charts with their self-titled international debut in 1996 as part of an explosion of boy bands in that decade. (If it seemed like the Backstreet Boys were particularly ubiquitous in 1997, it might be because that was the year their debut plummeted in America, coinciding with the release of 1997’s second album. Backstreet’s Back.)
But no band of their ilk has gone as far as BSB. With the exception of a brief hiatus in the 2000s and those few years when Richardson – the band’s oldest statesman – left the band, the Backstreet Boys are about to celebrate their 30th anniversary. as a group the next year, having formed in Orlando in 1993 – a fact they too seemed incredulous about. They have released nine studio albums, including those from 2019 DNA – which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 – making the Backstreet Boys the longest-lasting boy band in the world.
Boy bands, of course, aren’t built for longevity by design – there’s a reason the FOX Animated Series Boy Band Bob’s Burgers is hilariously called Boyz 4 Now: the boys end up turning into men. Men who belong to a “vocal group”, not to a boy band.
But the fact that the Backstreet Boys continue to pack arenas on multi-stop tours also serves as positive proof that one should never, ever underestimate the power of careering – and supporting – fan girls, by especially those growing up to be female fans. with disposable income.
“The Backstreet Boys wouldn’t exist without you,” Littrell admitted before launching into a smooth solo snippet of Nobody else. (He was candid about his struggles with muscle tension dysphonia, and while he wasn’t always the most powerful vocalist on the scene, four other guys always had his back.)
With no live instrumentation, a show like this is about two things: vocal performances and dance. The Boys delivered on both counts – you couldn’t tell these men and their knees were in their 40s (and, in Richardson’s case, 50s) – although at times their harmonies struggled to rise above the din of the crowd, especially during hits such as To come down.
Still, there were beefy vocal performances, especially on slow jams such as Show me the meaning of being alonewho brought the first costume change of the evening, and Incompletewhich was a thriving centerpiece for all of them.
Interactions with adoring fans in the first half of the set were minimal but heartfelt. And adoring fans that they were: “We’ve been waiting for a selfie for 25 years,” reads one sign. At least one bra is on stage. McLean and Richardson returned the favor by tossing briefs to the crowd. (You’d think it was a bouquet toss at a wedding from the way people moved on the floor.)
While the stage setup was deceptively basic, it made perfect use of the lighting, and two screens hanging directly above their heads ensured there was no bad seating in the house. During No space – with its refrain “ain’t a place like you” – a video of the Boys and their families played on screens, a reminder that they are in a different chapter of their lives.
They then took a few minutes to reminisce about the old days and gently excite each other like brothers before performing an a capella To breathewhich emphasized the fact that these boys are better when they sing together.
The show really took off towards the end. The boys donned white suits for an absolutely monster take on Everyone (Backstreet’s back) — easily the song of the night — which was quickly followed by We have it going.
The nearly two-hour main set was topped off with the pop confection I want it this waywith the fans doing much of the work on the chorus.
The band returned – dressed in Winnipeg Jets jerseys – for a two-song encore that included a swagger Do not break My Heart and closed with larger than lifethe titanic single of the 1999s Millenniumaccompanied by a dizzying light show and a flurry of streamers.
The Backstreet Boys offered plenty of escapist nostalgia and plenty of fan karaoke, especially on monster hits Stop playing with my heart) and the Carter-headed As you Love Me.
But it is okay. Monday evening was an opportunity to relive those feelings of the first school dance thanks to the music that accompanied everything.
Jen Zoratti is a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and co-host of the newspaper’s local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.
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