Backstreet Boys at 3Arena – 11.06.2019
Nostalgia is a valuable thing, and something worth capitalising on if you’re a band of a certain vintage and genre. From Spice Girl’s Croke Park cracker (well, depending on where you were sitting), to Aly and AJ’s upcoming reunion shows, there’s nothing as marketable as memories. But certainly, when it’s done well, it’s possible for events like this to feel less like a cash grab: instead, an experience worth waiting a life time for.
Enter, Backstreet Boys: arguably the strongest musical export of the nineties. Twenty six years together and a two-year Las Vegas residency under their belt, now is the time for them to come back and show the world what it means to be a boyband at a time when so few prosper.
The feeling in the arena feels borderline cult-ish as the five piece emerge from a shield of lights (not from a toaster pop mechanism under the stage akin to ye olden BSB days, as their collective age now comes in at 212). Adorned in near identical same-but-different ensembles that look to individualise the members – Kevin Richardson, AJ McLean, Nick Carter, Howie D. and Brian Littrell greet the cohorts of fans as seasoned veterans.
The lads uphold a good balance between new and old material – fair, given that the whole tour is in support of their most recent record, DNA (although when Howie poses the question of who in the crowd has listened to the LP, the response is muted, to say the least). That said, it means the ludicrous lyrics contained within ‘DNA’ album track New Love: “Who are you/The sex police?” is largely overloooked.
That peculiarity aside, the hits stand up: attendees have what can only be described as a visceral reaction to Shape of my Heart. Incomplete – from their first comeback record ‘Never Gone’ – is one of the most underrated power ballads of all time, with Kevin and Nick giving particularly stellar performances. The extensive choreography delivered throughout the show is performed with such polish from a band who’ve had plenty of time to practice – a mighty impressive display.
Not a red cent is spared production-wise: lasers, levitating covers and one particularly sophisticated backdrop of a waterfall bring the show together without threatening to swallow the six-piece up. Each boy (man?) gets their own opportunity to intro a song solo, delivering their own bit on Ireland along the way (though Carter does make reference to a Selkie book his child is obsessed with, originating from Scotland).
No matter – for their final act, it’s all about the hits. Shaking an already effervescent 3Arena, the boys don their signature white suits and hats in act which amplifies the sheer volume of the sold out crowd ten-fold. After that, it’s a wall-to-wall BSB megamix – Everybody transitioning into I Want It That Way shouldn’t work, but everyone’s too gleeful to care, really – culminating in the more-ish sugar rush of Larger Than Life.
It’s hard to judge how long Backstreet is – and should be – back. Backstreet Boys make it very clear that the golden era of boybands has been and gone. As live performers, they’re certainly not past it – something this show proves – but where they fit as an act in this musical era is something that’s more difficult to discern. Either way, being a Backstreet Boy fans continues to be one hell of a ride: those not converted by their arena antics will be in the minority.