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Monday, August 09, 2010

THIS IS US TOUR: Flashback Street A Dead End

Two and a half stars

Attendance: 5,500

If you thought the reunification of the Backstreet Boys on its Kevin Richardson-less Unbreakable tour in 2008 would finally be the end of the last ’90s “Boy Band” standing, well ... you’d be wrong.

Although the Orlando-based pop sensations of years gone by are as musically valid in 2010 as The Doodlebops, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and AJ McLean (the bad one) are still on the road and still doing reasonable concert business.

At best, the current This Is Us world tour, which made a stop at the Pengrowth Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday night, is a harmless, nostalgic walk down memory lane for women now entering middle age as quickly as the Backstreet Boys themselves.

At worst, it’s the much smaller-scale re-emergence of a cash-grab and pop novelty act that just won’t go away.

There was no need for the soccer mom references synonymous with each Bon Jovi tour stop as the Boys broke through a giant video screen in the middle of the stage and launched into Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) to the loud, yet much lower-pitched squeals of delight that marked the massive performances and production values during the group’s heyday prior to the new millennium.

Accompanied by only a DJ-percussionist-keyboardist, the sound was crystal clear during the group’s 100-minute set, but that may have had something to do with natural reverberation ringing off all the empty seats.

The assembled throng of around 5,500 at the Dome on Sunday evening was still almost exclusively female, 15 years older, but just as appreciative as ever when the quartet broke into We’ve Got It Goin’ On, PDA, (from last year’s This Is Us ) and the one-two saccharine pop punch of Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) and As Long As You Love Me.

The latter pair of sugar bombs are both excellent examples of a ’90s movement that produced untold numbers of teen-pop contenders and even more pretenders.

Oddly enough, both are easier to appreciate in 2010 only because just when you thought the ’90s would go down in music history as the worst decade ever, the new millennium brought us the age of disposable music and the American Idol model which, in a twisted and unlikely turn of events, kind of makes you long for the artistic integrity of N’Sync, 98 Degrees and, indeed, the Backstreet Boys. Weird.

It was easy for the Pengrowth Saddledome faithful to pick their poison.

They stood, they screamed, they danced, they sang and they may have laughed at the idea that 15 years ago there was no greater concern in their lives than who was cuter: Brian or Nick?

The swooning and swaying of the crowd through the harmonies of Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely and the lads trademark half-baked dance routines still make it a toss-up.

Longevity doesn’t always equate to greatness, but the Backstreet Boys have been around long enough to sport greying hair while belting out the songs that made the ’90s, er, the second worst decade in music history. Maybe there’s something to be said for that.

The group’s main set had yet to conclude at press time, however most performances on the current tour have included Shape Of My Heart, Larger Than Life, set-closer and show-stopper I Want It That Way and an encore of Straight Through My Heart.

Opening the show was Toronto R&B popster Shawn Desman.

The Juno Award-winner had his work cut out for him trying to bring something new and fresh to a crowd waiting for something old and dated, but the 27-year-old singer took full advantage of his opportunity with a 30-minute set which included hits such as Shiver (from his current Fresh release) as well as Shook and Get Ready from his 2002 self-titled debut.

Before that was a quick 25-minute set of passable dance pop from Dal Talevski. It appears obvious the young lad is chasing his dreams of stardom, on the road eating baloney sandwiches in the back of a tour van. He received a fair share of squeals (considering he was third on the bill of a show that was two thirds empty). Good luck, kid.