TAMPA — Margaret Johnson sipped a Topo Chico margarita in the sweltering parking lot outside the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheater, wearing a homemade tank top that read “Vintage BSB groupie.”
She and her friends had been camping in assorted Backstreet Boys merchandise since 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. Really, they had been anticipating the show for much longer.
“I’ve been waiting to see them since I was 14,” said Johnson, now 37. “I have those lyrics stuck in my head.”
Before the Tampa DNA World Tour halted, groups of fans swarmed to lawn chairs, shoving the Backstreet Boys’ greatest hits and knocking down jello shots. They shook off the tiny butterfly hair clips or space buns of their childhood, going back to the 90s with tattooed chokers and homemade shirts saying, “I should have married a Backstreet Boy.” It doesn’t matter that many are already married, some with their own children, all finally with the disposable income of an adult to fulfill their teenage dreams.
Many fans bought tickets long ago when the tour was announced, holding onto them for two and a half years as the show was pushed back three times.
“We’re just happy it’s finally launched,” Michelle Reidy, 37, said. “The pandemic has slowed things down.”
Aiden Reidy, wearing a t-shirt labeled “Emotional Support Husband,” added, “At the end of the day, Backstreet is back.”
Indeed, they are. The band, who formed in Orlando and played their first show at Sea World nearly 30 years ago, were quick to remind fans where it all began.
“Tonight we’re going to step back in time,” said Brian Littrell, stripping off his sparkling sequin jacket as he addressed fans for the first time. “We’re going to sing all your favorite tunes and I hope you feel like you’re 8, 10 or 12 again.”
In about two hours, they went through about 30 songs, new and old. It was the first time they had played in Tampa Bay since 2013. Their last album, “DNA,” was released in 2019, before the pandemic forced them to push back their world tour, so the songs were still technically fresh. Still, it’s no surprise that the classics from their early albums generated the most excitement: “Shape of My Heart”, “As Long As You Love Me” and “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”.
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Time has passed and The Boys (as we have to call them even though the oldest member, Kevin Richardson, turns 51 this year) have evolved. They stopped working together and tried solo careers and got back together. The members have wives and children, whose faces were projected onto the stage in the music video for “No Place.”
Being family dads (sorry, boys) didn’t stop them from grabbing their crotches, rolling their hips and, at one point, changing on stage and throwing their underwear into the crowd.
“Hey Kev, remember when all the fans were throwing their bras and panties on stage?” said AJ McLean. “Why don’t we reciprocate? »
Between shimmiing and crooning, each member took a moment to reminisce and thank the crowd. They performed ‘Larger than Life’, singing a love letter to the fans who brought them there. At one point, Nick Carter rocked a custom Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey and led a Tampa Bay chant.
“It means so much to me to be back in the place that got me onto this stage here for almost 30 years,” he said to cheers. “If you don’t know, I’m from Tampa. And I missed you so much.
Throughout the evening, the Boys showed that they still remembered all the details and choreography: the rustling of knees, the swinging of a fedora, pointing skyward and ending with arms crossed on Chest. Littrell sang with a smile, waving to the wailing fans in the pit. McLean wore fingerless gloves, a fishnet top, and a rhinestone-covered hoodie (not all at once — there were plenty of costume changes, of course). Carter, now 41, still had the goofy energy of a teenager, smiling as he roasted the early forms of his fellow band members: Howie Dorough was the only one with chest hair, Littrell arrived in Florida with a country twang and overalls.
“If you look at Teeny Bop magazines and pull out AJ’s face, you’ll notice that it was really perfect,” Carter said. “It’s because he painted his beard on it.”
After the glow of “I Want It That Way,” which earned one of the loudest chants of the night, Carter collapsed onto his back in the middle of the stage, soaking it all up. It was like he was having the best time of his life.
The screaming fans seemed to agree.