Sunday, September 1, 2013
Photos: In DFW show, Backstreet Boys take themselves way too seriously
At an earlier date, New Kids on the Block filled its show with winks and jokes. Members of BSB, however, pretended like they were still in their prime.
GRAND PRAIRIE Step one of any teen-idol comeback tour is poking fun at yourself. So on Friday night at Verizon Theatre, the Backstreet Boys trotted out the requisite jokes about the sheer weirdness of being “fully grown men in a boy band,” as one of them put it.
But moving from that weirdness into relevance is a much steeper step to climb. The Boys – or “BSB,” to borrow a chant from the largely-female and near-capacity crowd – had no trouble putting on a flashy dance party like it was 1999. Yet they also seemed hung up on the past and nervous about the future.
During one costume change, the video screen flashed phrases like “Best Selling Boy Band Ever,” as if to knock current boy toys like One Direction and the JoBros down a notch or two. The Orlando group also spent an inordinate amount of time bragging about its new CD, In a World Like This, and boasting about its chart positions – a dead giveaway of a band lacking confidence.
They also took themselves way too seriously at times. Whereas New Kids on the Block recently headlined American Airlines Center with plenty of winks and nods to the absurdity of being aging sex symbols, Backstreet Boys – all of whom are now in the 30s and 40s – often refused to break character. Poker-faced Nick Carter in particular still danced, talked and acted like a PG-rated Ken doll come to life.
At the other end of the visual spectrum was A.J. McLean, whose new beard suggested a Brooklyn indie-rock singer pretending to be Amish. The most soulful singer in the band, McLean handled most of the lead vocals, but he struggled at times, as did Brian Littrell, who was the source of dozens of sour notes.
The band did prove its vocal chops with soaring harmonies in “As Long as You Love Me” and an a capella rendition of “Safest Place to Hide.” Some of its new songs were pleasing enough, too, like the reggae-flavored “Madeleine,” and the group attempted to show maturity by singing about fatherhood in “Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of).”
But it’s always hard to take the music seriously by singers who don’t even bother to tour with a live band. Unless there were musicians secretly hiding inside the giant staircase set, the Boys performed the whole show to backing tapes, except for a short acoustic segment.
With the recent return of Kevin Richardson, the five original Backstreet Boys are celebrating their 20 anniversary on this tour. That’s a milestone for any band -- especially one built to rise quickly and vanish just as fast. But on Friday night, the group still hadn’t fully made the transition from boys to men.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
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