Backstreet Boys at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 8/31/13
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Backstreet Boys Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion August 31, 2013
The title of this article could be a lot of things, but none of them would be more fitting than one that read, "How the Backstreet Boys changed the mind of a former 'N Sync fan."
And really, nobody is more surprised by that than me.
When I heard that Backstreet Boys were returning to Houston, I had mixed feelings, my main one being whether or not they'd be any good. The 90s are over, after all. But any doubts I had melted away almost immediately.
The group started promptly at 8:55 p.m., and though DJ Pauly D (of MTV's Jersey Shore fame) got the crowd excited beforehand, he almost seemed superfluous once the lights went out.
Women and men of every age were on their feet, screaming loud enough to be heard on the other side of I-45. I guess once you start loving a boy band, you never really stop, because the screams only got louder and more urgent as Backstreet Boys emerged on a platform made entirely of LED lights, amidst smoke and spotlights.
Dressed in matching gray suits, black shirts and leather gloves, Backstreet Boys sang their hit, "The Call," while working through a choreographed dance.
As the group worked through the next couple of songs, it became apparent that while the Backstreet Boys have grown up alongside their fan base, they never lost their ability to perform. Instead, their voices sounded stronger than ever, and it's the kind of talent that's hard to deny.
While this show could be considered a reunion in some ways (Kevin Richardson left the group in 2006 before returning in early 2012), their In A World Like This Tour isn't a ploy for easy money, nor is it a comeback. Really, Backstreet Boys never left the show business, and with 130 million record sales under their belt they remain the best selling boy band in history.
As I watched the five members gyrate on stage to "Incomplete," I remember watching MTV's Total Request Live in 2000, when Brian Littrell announced that two crazed fans had stolen his beloved dogs. Only one year later, the group returned to TRL to announce they were postponing their Black and Blue tour while A.J. McLean entered rehab for "anxiety, depression, and excessive consumption of alcohol."
But McLean isn't the only one who battles addiction.
Nick Carter, the youngest and arguably most popular member of the group, has been upfront about his own addiction issues in the media. But watching them Saturday, you'd never be able to tell.
All five members of the group looked and sounded healthy as possible as they sang "Permanent Stain," a single from their eighth and most recent album, In a World Like This.
Of course, it can't hurt to know that the ladies still want you after 20 years.
Review continues on the next page.
It seemed all of Houston's female population was watching (and screaming) as Carter teased the audience by walking out onto the catwalk and "adjusting" his waistband.
After the group sang a partially remixed version of "All I Have to Give," they disappeared backstage for a costume change while "interview footage" of the guys rolled. Strangely enough, the sold-out crowd seemed infatuated with finding out more about the guys in the same way pre-teens study the latest issue of Teen Beat.
When the guys returned two minutes later, they were wearing mismatched leather and jean outfits as they danced to "As Long As You Love Me." Needless to say, Backstreet Boys still have the ability to make girls lose their shit.
In between songs, Richardson took to the catwalk to boast that over the past two decades, the group has released eight consecutive albums that debuted in the Billboard Top 10. While it may not seem like a big deal, it's actually a monumental feat. Historically, only two other recording artists -- Led Zeppelin and Sade -- have been able to do the same.
Of course, this information was used to transition into a new track, "Show'em What You're Made of" (written by Richardson and McLean for their children), before they jumped into "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely."
Now, aside from their appearance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards with Justin Timberlake, it's been a while since I last saw 'N Sync perform live. But I can say with certainty that Backstreet Boys were both dancing and singing just as good as they did when they first emerged. I love 'N Sync, but I'm just not sure they would be able to pull off a two-hour set.
On Saturday, however, Backstreet Boys made their way through their greatest hits and new material without ever seeming like they had something to prove. Instead, the group was able to harmonize perfectly on songs like "Breathe," when they asked the crowd to turn their cell-phone lights on.
A few songs later, I witnessed a woman who was about the same age as my grandma dancing and singing along to "We've Got It Going On."
Halfway through the show, the group brought about 30 women onstage to sit with them as they performed new tracks, "Safest Place to Hide" and "Madeline," as well as their first worldwide single, "Quit Playing Games With My Heart."
But the group wasn't just sitting around trying to swoon the ladies. I'm sure being surrounded by gorgeous Texan women doesn't hurt, but the men were too busy actually playing their own songs on acoustic guitars, a keyboard and using boxes and various percussion instruments to pay much attention to the women on-stage.
"We realize that in 30 to 40 years, we're not gonna be able to shake what our mamas gave us, so we picked up some instruments," said Howie Dorough.
As the group went backstage once more to change into burgundy, black and white outfits, they showed a teaser for their new film, Backstreet Boys: The Movie, which documents the band as they wrote In a World Like This in London.
Sure, pop-star documentaries are all the rage right now, but it's actually an intriguing thought once you factor in that the group decided to break away from their record label and forgo a producer for their latest album. It's a bold move, and not one that many pop artists would dare to make regardless of their success.
As soon as the preview ended, the men returned to the stage to sing "I'll Be The One" as they worked the stage and made every girl in the crowd feel as though they were the most important person there.
By that time, I'd found out that I know more Backstreet Boys songs than I gave myself credit for, and I'm actually looking forward to hearing the intro to "I Want It That Way." Of course, I'm not in the same panic mode that other girls are in, but I realize that this is the only atmosphere I'll be able to let loose and sing without being judged, so I do.
Thankfully, Backstreet Boys saved their best singles for last so I could. But when they emerged from backstage to sing "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," the ladies of Houston proved that women can scream just as loud as preteens - just without the high-pitched shrieks.
As I made my way out of the venue, I realized that I'll always be an 'N Sync fan. But if they can't perform half as well as Backstreet Boys did, I honestly hope they don't come back so I can at least remember them for what they were.
Of course, I don't get to reflect too much on the age-old battle of the boy bands before I'm snapped back to reality by a middle-aged man walked up to me and proclaimed "Backstreet's back!" All right, dude. All right.
Review continues on the next page.
Personal Bias: I grew up surrounded by Backstreet Boys songs. While I never really considered myself a huge fan of theirs, it was pretty cool to hear these songs live.
The Crowd: Women. A third of them were dressed to impress, a third were wearing homemade Backstreet Boys shirts, and the other third were already sporting their tour merch. Oh, and I guess there were a few guys there.
Overheard In The Crowd: "You left a permanent stain on my couch!" - one very excited woman in response to Nick Carter after introducing the song, Permanent Stain
Random Notebook Dump: Howie, you seem like the coolest guy ever, but I swear if you ever give up making music you should become a voice actor. Maybe you can do something for the Chuck E. Cheese franchise, because you sound a lot like him.
The Call Don't Want You Back Incomplete Permanent Stain All I Have to Give As Long As You Love Me Show'em What You're Made of Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely Breathe I'll Never Break Your Heart We've Got It Going On Safest Place to Hide Madeleline Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) I'll Be the One Love Somebody More Than That In a World Like This I Want It That Way
Everybody (Backstreet's Back) Larger Than Life
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