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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

THIS IS US TOUR: Backstreet’s Fans Still Can’t Get Enough Of Them

The Backstreet Boys, left to right, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean and Brian Littrell, perform at the MTS Centre Wednesday night.
WINNIPEG — This is us, now: another year and nine months older, inching closer to 30 and still ready to scream.

This is them, now: another year and nine months older, inching closer to 40 and still larger than life.
And in a year when top-selling artists struggle to sell any concert tickets, the Backstreet Boys — two years and another flopped album later — danced back into the MTS Centre last night and played to a crowd only slightly smaller than their last visit. And they drove that crowd absolutely wild. Again.

If you’re not among the Backstreet faithful, you don’t get it. You’re scratching your head. You’re checking the calendar — yep, it’s 2010, not 1999. You’re asking: "How does a quartet of 30-somethings who haven’t had a true hit album in almost a decade... still get all these CHICKS?"
I’ll let you in on a little secret: this isn’t just cheesecake, not anymore. Somewhere along the way — sometime between Nick Carter’s burnout and the Boys’ 2005 comeback album, Never Gone — the Boys were elevated from aging boy-band to something more like a cult. This is like a Rocky Horror Picture Show for 20-somethings in Steve Madden wedges and their eager little sisters. Always the same. Always a party. Wave your arms like this, scream your head off like that, catch a hint of Nick’s abs like this...

And so last night, the crowd and the band made this show together, just like they did in 2008.
The instant the Boys-men stepped onstage just after 9 p.m., the audience lost their minds. They threw their arms in the air, waved them in oddly uniform fits of glee, and unleashed a shocking, eardrum-rending storm of squeals at all the appropriate moments, such as the second an introductory pic of Carter flashed on the screen, or the instant Carter purred "am I sexual" in the verse to opener Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).

And when the four Boys — Carter, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough – stood at the edge of the stage and ordered the audience to yell the title of their bouncy new tune PDA, the thunderous chant that came back to them sounded like something bellowed from the parade square of a fascist dictatorship of bloodthirsty warrior women.

I like these girls. I also like these Boys. True, there’s nothing new here — the earnest breast-clutching, the fancy footwork, the pledges of eternal love, that’s all been done before. Mostly by them. But you can’t fake their energy, nor their explosive onstage charisma. This tour is less gimmicky than the last — there was no boxing ring, for starters, and no draggy solo performances from each Boy — but even singing straight on a straight-up stage, the Boys left no penny of the audience’s money wasted.

For starters, they revived their positively ancient breakthrough hit, We’ve Got It Goin’ On, to a zanily positive reception; after that, it was full-stage press. Barely stopping for a break, they piled on the hits (and, um, six tunes from This Is Us), and the audience piled on them too. Lining up with the microphones at the end of Shape of My Heart, they waved their arms and 6,000 arms waved right back.

Two quick video interludes to change clothes — from sparkly blazers to sparkly hoodies, basically — and then it was eight feet pounding the stage floor again. Not a second left without someone crooning to the crowd, sliding their heels across the floor, or hugging a little girl lifted from the front row. Frankly, if every musical artist respected their fans enough to deliver a show this satisfying every time, the concert industry might be in better shape.

At press time, the Boys were working through their cheesy (sorry, department of redundancy department checked in there) 2005 comeback hit, Incomplete, with four songs left in the kitty before heading to Mystique for a rumoured after-party.

MTS Centre
Attendance: 6,000
Four out of five stars