The Backstreet Boys popped out when I was like eleven; The New Kids on the Block just faded when the Backstreet Boys were being created. They started out as a five piece teenage male vocal group and they lasted as five from 1993 to 2006 until the eldest member Kevin Richardson called it quits to pursue other endeavors. The remaining four are A.J McLean, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell.
I remember the Backstreet Boys gaining esteem in the mid-nineties shortly followed by the ‘Spice Girls’. Once those two pop groups became immensely successful it caused a popstorm, every major record label around the world had to have one. Male and Female Pop Groups were being molded together faster than Big Mac’s at the 42nd and 7th McDonalds during rush hour in Manhattan. When Kurt Cobain died in 1994 so did Grunge, the poptarts took over. The 90’s pop era will forever leave a lasting impression on music today. Look at the ‘Jonas Brothers’ they all sound like mini Carter’s but come in a ‘Hanson’ “MMMBop” package. Doesn’t matter what they say the girls wanted to date them and the boys wanted to be them. Many larries I knew dyed their hair blonde sporting a mushroom cut like Carter’s or trimmed their facial hair to mimic AJ’s goatee. Admitting or still closeted many guys do enjoy the tunes, countless drunk solos I’ve encountered. Last year I was at Les Deux in West Hollywood, it was rock night and they had live bands playing. The last band of the night busted out ‘I Want It That Way’ to end their set, you would think they were going to be booed but the super packed club was cheering it on, they loved it! Never understood the term ‘boy band’, if you think about it, every dude in a band with just larries is a boy band, it should be ‘Toy Band’ for the manufactured candy coated kind. This specific pop group has been kicking for seventeen years! That’s like Seventy-Seven in Entertainment years, especially since their main competitors ‘Nsync disintegrated in the early 2000’s.
The Backstreet Boys were quickly becoming the last of a dying breed until the New Kids announced their return in 2008, that caused a little commotion but soon the New Kids hype deflated once again. The Geezers are still floating and now the Backstreet Boys have competition from their predecessors or do they? The word is that as of Summer 2011, the two Man groups are doing a joint tour. The Old and the Older together, maybe Richardson will make a return for this Pop Trip Extravaganza tour. Technically they are both passe and irrelevant in today’s music, well…Actually, the New Kids are considered ancient but who knows? The combo tour could receive collective attention, putting them both back in the spotlight selling out arenas again. Any way you view this 2 for 1 Toy Band deal, it’s a win win for everyone involved. These two groups have some extremely dedicated fans, together they will do and pay anything to see their favorites for a nostalgic pop trip to their childhood. If they were to do a collaboration track good enough to get airplay, it could give the man groups ground to launch on. We all know that both of the Toy bands’ current music nobody but their fans want to hear, radio won’t touch. I do give The Backstreeter’s props for still trying even after Richardson’s departure, that shows sheer determination and persistence when most people continue telling them to disappear and stop trying.
I had no clue they released another single off the new record. When they introduced the track ‘Bigger’ as the current single I was lost, guess I should have done more research. Listening to the tune, I understood completely why I had never heard it. Nobody would spin that track anywhere public ears could hear, It’s a very cheesy thank you song to “The best fans in the world”. They repeatedly thanked the fans and as they should. If it wasn’t for their fans, they would be doing club tours or have normal day jobs like 98 Degrees and the rest of ‘Nsync. One thing I still don’t know is how JC Chasez ended up a judge on America’s Best Dance Crew? His dancing is so bad, like a rythmnless cheerleader, no flavor. Maybe they should throw him in The Backstreet Boys for some extra publicity with McLean and Carter teaching him how to dance. The venue was packed with 11,000 screaming fans mostly female (Duh), clearly in Toronto they can still pull bodies into a larger venue. The best records The Backstreet Boys have released are “Millennium” and “Black and Blue”, they have had sprinkled success singles here and there. Song’s like ‘Incomplete’ were hot but then they released ‘Inconsolable’ on the record “Unbreakable” playing themselves out with reruns.
When I first migrated into the media pit I heard someone yelling my name, that was weird! it turned out to be this woman I knew from a film we worked on a few years ago and she was sitting in the front row. She told me to check out the merch booth because Littrell’s wife had T-Shirts of herself for people to buy, I started laughing I didn’t think she was serious, honestly thought it was a joke. Who does that? Didn’t believe it until I saw this for myself on the way to my seat, such a sad desperate cry for attention, never in my life have I heard or seen any significant other do that. Honestly, if you are not in the group why are you selling T-Shirts of yourself, talk about trying to milk it Yoko. It’s pretty clear this broad wants to be famous riding her husband’s coattails as far as she can. Is she the new fifth member? Richardson’s replacement (Laughs).
As I was checking my angles, there was an eruption of screams and out popped this little curly-haired blonde larry with a mic. He looked about five or six and with a thick Southern American accent he introduced all four members in the group including his father Brian Littrell. Soon after mini Littrell migrated, the curtains pulled back and a video played on the screen, more screams. The last scene was of the group running towards the camera and out they jumped through the screen onto the top-tier of the stage’s second level. The screams at that decibel were beyond deafening, once the fans saw them in the flesh it’s like they went into extra shrill mode. I so wished at that moment I had my ear plugs but of course I forget them when I need them the most. As the fans unleashed their lungs the four of them stood there taking it all in, looking around at the frenzied crowd as if they were sucking in all the energy for a super adrenaline rush or (stealing their souls – haha). As the show progressed they had several mildly entertaining skits between six different costume changes in their twenty-two track set, Divos!
This tours stage set up was a less elaborate production compared to their previous arena tours; they didn’t even have a band just one man behind the “Kit”. It looked like he had all the toys needed to be the musician of the show. They kicked off the set with ‘Backstreet’s Back’ and the whole Thriller-abee dance. Followed by ‘We’ve Got It Going On’ and four dancers who joined the aging pop group as they proclaimed they’ve got it goin on for years, jamming in their Jordans. I have to say this was the hardest group for me to shoot, the stage is so high up and these dudes were ‘Flying Larries’. By Flying Larries I mean Dancing Dudes. They were everywhere, flying all over the place with so much energy busting a move and singing in tune. Not as awkward as you would think, but Howie and Brian did look as if they were going to pass out at certain points, they are the oldest. Getting a few feasible clean shots was so very challenging, especially because my camera does not have a built in motion stabalizer it can be very tricky to get a dynamic shot. Particularly when pushy stalkerazzi are on your ass everywhere you turn. With only two tracks to capture these flying larries in their essence this dude was so annoying to me. I was going to snap on the stalkerazzo he had this monster stalkery telescopic zoom lens and kept asking me if I was going to move around. I always do and as always he followed me everywhere I went repeating the same thing over and over in my ear. My camera has a much smaller lens, his distinct huge zoom lens is capable of getting crisp shots from anywhere in the pit. I have encountered this stalkerazzo before, he has some serious lingering halitosis and every time he talks it spreads a few feet contaminating the entire area.
Regardless of the obstacles I managed to get some pretty decent shots and you can check the rest in the slideshow at the end of the article. They sang a tune right before “Incomplete” called “Undone”, I was impressed with Littrell’s vocals on this one, he was hitting those high notes without going flat. Most of the guys had strong vocals throughout the night, Carter wasn’t as whiney or nasally and Dorough actually sounded decent (his voice is the least tolerable to my ears of the four). McLean has the most unique voice and is a natural born dancer, even Carter’s dance skills have improved, Timberlake better watch out… DDDANCE BATTLE!! (Laughs) All four have that special chemistry together and that makes this group the multi-platinum selling artists they are. They can entertain with their eyes closed, I would hope so since this is what they have been doing for most of their lives.
It was obvious they are seasoned performers they know how to win over a crowd. I could only recognize the old school hit singles like ‘Quit Playing Games’, ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’ and ‘All I Have To Give’. During those songs with the five part harmonies in which Richardson’s vocals rounded out the sound, you could hear the absence of the broken puzzle. Some of the harmonies sounded pitchy, to pull it off flawlessly you need a deeper tone to solidify the sound to make it full. They tried but unlike Boyz II Men the four of them have similar vocal tones and can’t replicate the sound of a five piece because the Bass is missing.
The loudest screams of the night unleashed when they dropped their hit tune ‘The Call’ it was insane, maybe they should pay attention to what hits the spot. But really it doesn’t matter what tune they release their fans eat it up. Coming to the conclusion that although they put on the best show and are the most talented of the ‘Toy Bands’, The Backstreet Boys need KEVIN and a new record filled with hits. They really should stop picking shitty rejected New Kids songs and work with new producers and writers. Keep up with the current scene larries but don’t mimic. Flip the script and create something fresh, there are so many talented people to team up with. The last tune of the set was ‘Straight Through My Heart’ the final, of three encores ‘If I Knew Then’ and ‘I Want It That Way’ were played just before. Most of these guys are multi-instrumentalists, they have the appeal all these resources at their finger tips, they could move mountains once again. But as I’ve learned not everyone has gifted ears and writing skills.
Would I see them again? Maybe, I’m not sixteen anymore I wouldn’t buy a ticket but I would do some filmage at another show or an interview with a few of the larries. Even if it’s disingenuous and campy at least it’s quality old school pop and not the assier shit of today. Are they back? Is it possible for The Backstreet Boys careers to be resurrected to conquer the pop world once more? With the latest record not at all, still chilling in washed out territory but if they set themselves a part with something new and relevent, there is a chance. All the aspiring music newbies out there, respect your elders! Yes, it’s fluffy pop music but not too long ago these larries sold over 130 million records world wide and they still have the potential to do it again.
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TORONTO SET LIST
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
We’ve Got It Goin’ On
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
As Long As You Love Me
This Is Us
Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
All I Have To Give
She’s a Dream
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
Shape of My Heart
More Than That
Larger Than Life
All of Your Life (You Need Love)
Bye Bye Love
If I Knew Then
I Want It That Way
Straight Through My Heart