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Thursday, August 12, 2010

THIS IS US TOUR: Backstreet: Back, All Right

Attention, Justin Bieber fans: This is your future.

One day, hard as it is to believe right now, you will be old. Way old. Like 25. Seriously. But even though you will be near death at that point, you will very likely end up dragging your ancient, withered carcass to a cyberstadiaplex (or whatever they call them in the future) to see a comeback tour simulcast by Justin and his latest high-tech toupee.

And you can only hope he and his German-engineered wig make you feel the same way Backstreet Boys made 6,000 female fans feel Wednesday night at MTS Centre.

OK, the crowd wasn't totally women — the actual female-to-male ration was likely only about 59: 1. But I am fairly certain I was the only straight guy there without a date or a daughter. Which is a long way of saying that I am clearly not in the BSB fan club. In fact, I would prefer going to the dentist than a Backstreet Boys show.

But even I have to admit, they give the ladies what they want. They work pretty hard. And they put on enough of a show to keep you reasonably interested even if you didn't grow up with pictures of Brian Littrell, Nick Carter, A. J. McLean, Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson on your bedroom wall.

These days, of course, they're just a quartet — Richardson bowed out in 2006. That isn't the only way they've downsized. Their current tour in support of their third comeback album This Is Us is a smaller-scale, more economical affair than the big-budget, stadium-sized extravaganzas of their late-’90s boy-band heyday. Instead of a band, they had a DJ who also handled keyboards and electronic drums (and probably drives their bus). Instead of a massive stage, they had a compact but effective set with a couple of curved staircases, plenty of decorative trusses and a raised platform at the rear. Instead of wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling video, they had one small front-projection screen and a handful of smaller LED units showing generic graphics, old videos and some cute faux-movie trailers that inserted the singers into footage from The Matrix (Nick), Fight Club (A.J.), The Fast & The Furious (Howie) and, um, Enchanted (Brian). Instead of a zillion lasers and effects, they had a restrained but stylish light show. Instead of legions of dancers, they had four women. Instead of roadies, the Boys (and those dancers) carted microphone stands and stools onstage and off themselves. Instead of elaborate outfits, most of their costumes seemed more or less like BeDazzled regular clothes (except for some silly padding and mirrors they donned for Larger Than Life).

But really, none of that stuff appeared to matter very much to the females of all ages who screamed, shrieked and squealed their way through the Boys' 100-minute set, which kicked off with fittingly energetic versions of Everybody (Backstreet's Back), We've Got it Goin' On and PDA — after the band was introduced by Littrell's young son (awwwwwww).

The first thing you noticed: They still sounded pretty good. Their harmonies were strong and on the money, and while they were sometimes overwhelmed by the bass-heavy mix, it sure didn't seem like they were lip-synching or being AutoTuned.

The second thing you noticed: For four ancient dudes in their 30s, they could dance OK. Granted, their moves fall into two basic categories: 1) On the slower songs like As Long as You Love Me, they would glide, slide and gesture like The Pips, The Four Tops or The Temptations (ask your grandpa); 2) On the faster songs, they would jump, bounce and flail like something you'd see on a late-night exercise-video infomercial. But hey, give them credit — they were moving up there, and their choreography was as tight as their vocals. And pairing them with those female dancers not only makes the whole thing seem a lot less light in the loafers, it also gives the handful of guys in the audience something to watch.

The third thing you noticed: They could do no wrong with fans. Nearly every song was greeted with an ear-piercing ovation and accompanied by a singalong from the crowd, who spent most of the night on their high-heeled feet. A few lucky ladies even snagged long-stemmed roses tossed out during I'll Never Break Your Heart, and one young tot ended up onstage to help sing Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) and got a hug for her performance.

The fourth thing you noticed: The Boys didn't take their audience for granted. Each of them repeatedly thanked and praised fans for supporting them for 17 years, and one of them — I think it was Howie — asked: "Do you think we can get 17 more years?" Judging by the reaction, they can.

Justin should be so lucky.

Set List:

Everybody (Backstreet's Back)

We've Got It Goin' On


Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)

As Long As You Love Me

This Is Us

Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely

All I Have To Give

She's a Dream

I'll Never Break Your Heart

The Call

The One


Shape of My Heart

More Than That



Larger Than Life

All of Your Life (You Need Love)

Bye Bye Love

I Want It That Way


Straight Through My Heart