Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

THIS IS US TOUR: Backstreet Boys Never Fail Their Fans

Boy band excites 11,500 screaming fans at Bell Centre

MONTREAL - If the popularity of a group can be measured by the decibel levels of its screaming fans, Backstreet Boys are as big as they ever were.

The grown-up boy-band took the stage before an audience of 11,500 female fans, from teenagers to 30-somethings, Monday night at the Bell Centre.

The broad demographic reflected the band's uncanny ability to hold onto their old fans while reeling in new ones - not bad for a bunch of adult men reliving the pop-star days of their youth.

Brian Littrell's Habs-jersey sporting, 6-year-old son Baylee came out first, presumably introducing his dad's band, although his words were unintelligible above the ear-piercing shrieks.

It's been two years since their last visit to the same venue, where they performed to a crowd almost exactly the same size. This time the Boys were back in town to promote their seventh album, This Is Us, released last year.

But it was 1997 all over again as the night began with old favourite Everybody (Backstreet's Back). A sea of cellphone cameras went up to greet the elder Littrell and bandmates Howie Dorough, Nick Carter and A.J. McLean, who appeared at the top of a two-sided staircase. They descended in tandem and proceeded to bust out their old moves over the frozen-in-time synth-funk backtrack (beefed up by a live drummer).

The clock turned back even farther with 1995's We've Got It Goin' On, featuring four female dancers and kaleidoscopic images flashing on the big screen behind them.

They finally broke out a new song with PDA, which had a more contemporary R&B feel. But it wasn't long before they were digging into the back catalogue again.

Ballads Quit Playing Games With My Heart, Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, All I Have to Give and I'll Never Break Your Heart (dedicated to "all the sexy ladies in the house tonight") earned enthusiastic singalongs.

Shape of My Heart had the entire audience belting out the chorus, arms waving back and forth in time to the beat while the band led the charge in four-part harmony.

Between-song video segments had individual band-members cast in hit films. Carter was plopped into the Matrix, Dorough faced off against Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious and their bandmates earned parts in Fight Club and Enchanted. While the references might have been lost on the band's younger fans, they were probably bang-on for most.

Not much changes with Backstreet Boys, and that's the way their fans like it. It takes very little to make everyone very happy. A few well-timed twists, clenched fists, synchronized spins and impassioned stares and you're on your way.

Larger Than Life had them executing a basic choreography around a row of big red blocks, while Undone needed only a simple shuffle step as the four lined the front of the stage. Power-ballad Incomplete was strong enough to shine on its own merits, the Boys delivering their parts from different ends of the stage, passing the melody around as they led the fans in song.

Just when you thought it was going to be one big slow jam, they returned with the charged dance-pop of Larger Than Life, All Of Your Life and Bye Bye Love. It all wrapped up in the encore with trademark hits I Want It That Way and Straight Through My Heart.

The only complaint a diehard fan might have had is that the Boys' images weren't projected on the big screen - perhaps so that fans couldn't see their wrinkles - preventing an important bonding element.

But judging by the crowd's already over-the-top reaction, perhaps it was better that way.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette