Review by Daz Gale
Oh my God, they’re back again. More than 3 years since they last visited the UK, the legendary Backstreet Boys returned for the first of 2 dates in the UK, appearing at London’s equally iconic o2 arena as part of their DNA World Tour. However, a wave of uncertainty loomed over whether the concert would be going ahead at all or with all five members after the tragic news of the death of Aaron Carter, brother of band member Nick, just one day earlier. What followed was one of the most emotional concerts I have ever been to.
From the moment the group appeared on stage with every member present, the cheers and screams that greeted them was deafening. If the Backstreet Boys have a devoted fanbase anyway, this night was all about proving they are indeed one huge extended family as they showered the boys with love , picking them up in the moments that were proving too much for them and regularly shouting “We love you Nick” when the tears started falling from his eyes. In all my years of concert-going, I have never seen a room filled with so much love. An audience full of 18,000 adoring fans were all in it together with the five men on that stage in a concert that simultaneously managed to be intimate from the human connection and grand from the sheer scale of love being showered upon them.
The show was very slightly rejigged from the rest of their tour, though the majority of their lengthy setlist remained unchanged. All the group usually have solo turns to speak to the audience and perform a song on their own. However, Nicks solo speech and song were cut from this concert, completely understandably. Following a beautiful performance of recent single ‘No Place’ a picture of Aaron Carter was displayed mid-air above the stage. This was followed by a speech from Kevin Richardson about losing one of their family, all while Nick tried to hold it together. Seeing such raw grief this close at such a high-profile event may have felt uncomfortable, but the fact everybody in attendance was able to bask in the love hopefully helped to heal these fresh wounds in some small way.
More than 30 songs were packed in to a snappy two hour setlist that revisited every aspect of their career. While some artists may gloss over their earlier material, there was none of that here with the group proudly honouring all of the anthems they released in the 90s and early 2000s, no matter how cheesy. Refreshingly, these were performed in their original glory – no pretentious jazz versions were to be found here! Debut single ‘We’ve Got It Goin’ On’, the fantastic ‘Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)’ and the undoubted classic that is ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ were all performed with such genuine joy and pride that took all the adults in their 30s in the audience back to their childhoods. If you were wondering if the original dance routine was used for ‘Everybody’, the answer is yeeeeeaaaaah.
The Backstreet Boys are known for a weepy ballad and at this concert they packed more of an emotional punch than ever before, given the events in the 24 hours previously. ‘Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely’ and ‘Shape Of My Heart’ were both as hard for the audience to get through as it was for Nick and his fellow band members during those numbers, with the amount of tears shed in the o2 enough to justify a flood warning. ‘Incomplete’ was another emotional highlight, while ‘I Want It That Way’ sounds every bit as incredible now as it did when it was first released 23 years ago.
Asking a group of five men to sing songs they released 25 years ago and still hit the same notes isn’t always the easiest task, but this wasn’t a problem for the Backstreet Boys, with truly sensational vocals from all five of them throughout the concert proving they haven’t lost it at all in that time. Be it Nicks iconic vocals, Brians gorgeous falsetto or fab vocals from AJ, Howie and Kevin, this was a vocal masterclass all the way throughout, with the group proving they are unmatched when it comes to tight harmonies.
One thing you need to know about a Backstreet Boys concert is boy, do they put on a show! It’s not just the collection of brilliant songs and fantastic dancing, the banter the boys have with eachother creates many a laugh out loud moment, with Kevin and AJ proving a formidable double act. Impressive staging and bold lighting takes advantage of the huge o2 arena to create a show as spectacular visually as it is sonically.
If the Backstreet Boys usually put on a good show, this was them at the very best. Raw and urgent, the whole evening was incredibly powerful as they came together to brave through an impossible situation. The admiration I had for Nick for appearing on stage and getting through what must have been one of the toughest moments in his life was only rivalled by the sheer beauty of the boys relationship with each other. It may not be fair to make comparisons but earlier this year I saw another boy band at the o2 who clearly didn’t gel with each other on stage, talking over each other and attempting to out-sing one another. The Backstreet Boys are the polar opposite of this. The camaraderie the boys have with eachother is so refreshing to see, with each of them ready to help the other one if they needed it (as had never been as apparent as it was at this show) and little handshakes, touches and hugs throughout proving we were watching five men who truly loved eachother – this is part of what makes a Backstreet Boys show so slick and special.
There’s a reason the Backstreet Boys have been at the top of their game for 27 years now. They put together a highly polished, fun and top quality show that is literally larger than life. It would have been incredible on any other night, but with the extra layer of emotion added to it, you are left with an experience you are likely to never forget. The boys gorgeous vocals and stage presence meant they are every bit as amazing now as they were in the 1990s. if I went into this concert already loving this group, I came out of them adoring them more than I thought it was possible. Backstreet’s Back and it’s more than just alright!
I Wanna Be With You
Don't Want You Back
Nobody Else (Brian solo)
Get Down (You're The One For Me)
Chateau (Howie solo)
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
More Than That
Shape Of My Heart
Quite Playing Games (With My Heart)
As Long As You Love Me
Don't Wanna Lose You Now
I'll Never Break Your Heart
All I Have To Give
Everybody (Backstreet's Back)
We've Got It Goin' On
It's Gotta Be You
That's The Way I Like It
Get Another Boyfriend
I Want It That Way
Don't Go Breaking My Heart
Larger Than Life
Backstreet Boys play Manchester AO Arena on Tuesday 8th November.