Backstreet Boys Bayou Music Center December 18, 2013
Backstreet's back...all right?
There comes a point when it's disingenuous to keep calling these nostalgic boy bands "boys," and we've definitely reached that point here. There's nothing boyish about these men. They're fathers, husbands and Little League coaches.
There also comes a point when it's time for these nostalgia acts to call it a day; a time when they should pack up their harmonized wares for greener, more family-oriented pastures. Luckily for both Backstreets and their fans, it's not that time yet.
Throngs of glittered, sign-bearing Backstreet Boys fans -- both the original '90s fans and a new generation -- made their way to Bayou Music Center Wednesday, where the Boys were scheduled to play their second Houston concert of the year. It's a little strange to see adult women in side ponytails and glitter shirts, but perhaps the dress-up is part of what drives this whole nostalgia trend.
Folks who grew up worshiping these boy bands get to play the part they may have missed in their younger years, while reliving the moments of their youth. But the artists get to play into that, too: when they take the stage, they get to step back into those old dancing shoes and pop and lock it for a couple of hours in front of a massive number of screaming women.
Oh, how the women in Bayou screamed. From the first note of first opener Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah," those women shrieked at insane decibels. Yes, everyone loves Delilah, but it was a bit strange to have bedazzled women jumping up and down to a folksy, silly love song. But whatever. They were excited, I suppose, and Delilah does seem like a rad chick.
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Second opener James Blunt was about as mellow as one can get in terms of his music, and it seemed strange to have him follow the T's. Backstreet -- with their synchronized dance moves, flirty facial expressions and flat-out boy-band motif -- are the epitome of high-energy. That's their entire job, other than singing in harmony. They're supposed to get the women screaming. I wasn't sure how Blunt's sickly sad songs were going to please these folks.
In spite of the juxtaposition to everything Backstreet, Blunt pulled it off well. People were stoked to hear him belt out his depressing, lovelorn songs, and the crowd's approval was evident from the roaring response to "You're Beautiful." Those singer-songwriter ballads, even the ones where Blunt took the stage solo, with only a piano to accompany him, didn't quell the excitement in the air over the Backstreet Boys.
I, however, contemplated hanging myself from the rafters in response. Man, those songs are depressing. James, you're a fantastic artist, but perhaps a few more upbeat songs would make you less of a downer. Just one or two, please?
By the time Blunt had finished his final Captain Depresso song, plus an awkward crowd-surf to some pretty mellow music, it was well after 9 p.m., which felt like an awfully late start considering the Backstreet Boys (and myself) are damn near entering geriatric territory.
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But as the clock struck 10 p.m. on the dot, out burst the Boys, full of energy and charisma, and those screams for depressing Blunt were no longer loud. They were whispers compared to the ear-piercing octaves of the crowd full of women in their mid-thirties .
I was under the impression that only tween girls screamed at that volume. I was wrong. It's apparently a female trait, and it just lays dormant past your tween years until it resurrected with the help of the Backstreet Boys.
As soon as Backstreet launched into their first number, complete with those old synchronized dance moves, it was apparent that unlike many of the mass produced, well-groomed pop groups, these Boys can sing. They've aged a bit, yes, and the dance moves are a bit unnerving from a bunch of men well past their boy-band prime. But if we're judging on talent, they've got it.
It's a bit surprising that the mad crush of women all rushing toward the stage didn't break the barrier. As the Backstreet Boys continued their short but sweet set, there was no break in either their or the crowd's energy. Those boys kept dancing and reaching for the audience, and the women reciprocated with screams. And more screams. And more screams.
The standout song of the night was introduced by A.J., who has grown the best beard I've ever seen on a man, pop star or otherwise. He spoke about being a father, and the sentimentality behind the song. It showed a bit of growth in the group, even if they're still hell-bent on testing nature with those dance moves.
The only thing that seemed a bit off about the set was the lack of old material. I completely understand their desire to distance themselves from songs that were (presumably) written for them so many years ago, but the whole point of a nostalgia show like this is to indulge the fans who have dressed up for them in their old high-school duds.
But that was not the case Wednesday. Had I been a hardcore fan back in my youth, I would have been disappointed. Luckily, I was nothing of the sort. I listened to the Misfits and a lot of Dirty South rap during the height of the Backstreets' fame, so as a novice, I was pretty impressed. I expected a canned, mechanical version of their former selves, and they did a fantastic job of exposing themselves as anything but just a nostalgia act.
They're pushing to stay relevant outside their fans' high-school memories, and writing music that has been given some genuine time, thought, and emotion. That's a nice thing to see from a band still best known for a song called "Backstreet's Back."
Personal Bias: I am alllllll boy-banded out for the year. Thanks, guys. Over and out.
The Crowd: E'rybody in Bayou Center gettin' tipsy! (And wearing glitter.)
Overheard In the Crowd: "Are leather pants seriously back in? I can't pull those off. Shit!" (Me, thoroughly hoping that leather pants NEVER make their way back in.)
Random Notebook Dump: Dear Backstreet Boys. You're great. I like you. But if you ever, ever make me wait for you until 10 p.m. again, while listening to James Blunt sing-cry, I will hunt you down and take away all of your skin-tight jeans.
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