The American Airlines Center’s sidewalks were spray-painted with the words “Backstreet’s Back in Dallas.” Fans filed in sporting “YOU ARE MY FIRE” T-shirts and other '90s memorabilia. They lined up for pictures with a giant poster of the Backstreet Boys, wearing all white, from their legendary “I Want It That Way” music video.
But it’s not 1999. That was a simpler time, a turn-of-the-century pop culture renaissance.
Twenty years later, the world feels as if it’s at its wit’s end, and we wonder where humanity is going. Millennials streamed into the American Airlines Center to escape to the past, even if for one Sunday night. And the Backstreet Boys delivered.
No, it’s not 1999 anymore, but that’s OK. At least, that’s what the Boys are telling us. Instead of being in denial that 26 years have passed since the band was formed, they've repackaged themselves with a new angle. They’re the same boys you grew up screaming over, but now they’ve reached their full potential. They’re cool dads now.
The boy band's maturity wasn’t something swept under the rug; it was celebrated. Member Brian Littrell’s 16-year-old son Baylee opened the show. The kid looked like a mix between Cody Simpson and that boy from the Hannah Montana movie. He was a solid country vocalist, though.
From the moment the Backstreet Boys came back onstage, the energy in the room was through the roof. And the party burned with the fiery catalyst of nostalgia. Though the boys sprinkled songs from their new album, DNA (usually as solos while they took turns doing costume changes), most of the set focused on giving fans the oldies they came for. Also present, of course, were the signature vocal runs, the synchronized finger snaps and other dramatic hand gestures, and unmistakable boy band moves like "sexy" spinning or kicking.
With every choreographed move, the boys proved they still got it, or that practicing the same dances for 26 years makes you pretty good at them.
“This place is sold-out tonight!” yelled Nick Carter. “So does this mean you still love the Backstreet Boys after all these years?”
Screaming. Lots of screaming.
“You know, no matter how far we’ve been from you, you’ve always been in our hearts,” Carter continued, flicking open his jacket and grabbing his chest like he was in a freaking telenovela. There was a pause. “I see that guy laughing over there laughing, he’s laughing. Listen. I thought that’s what you came here for. … Was that a little too boy band for you?” asked Carter. “Oh, my bad, you came here for the boy band. That’s what you came here for, right?”
Yes, that’s exactly what we came for. All the classics. Before there was One Direction’s "Gotta Be You," there was Backstreet Boy’s "It’s Gotta Be You." Before there was Nick Jonas’ falsetto there were Howie Dorough’s high notes. Even before there was 'NSYNC there had to be a Backstreet Boys.
The group performed all the classics with energy and ease. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” “Incomplete,” “Shape of My Heart,” “Quit Playing Games With My Heart,” “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” and much more. Their set was incredible. Their lights were flawless, and their video backdrops and overall production were indeed larger than life.
There were key notable moments besides the music, like when Kevin Richardson and AJ McLean did a costume change in little boxes onstage and paraded around a bejeweled bra someone had chucked at them.
There were times when the boys made a valiant effort to be sexy and even cat-called at a large projection of a woman’s fishnet-covered thighs, but it was just a little uncomfortable, bordering on creepy, considering these were mostly men in their late 40s. You gotta know when to stop grabbing your crotch and calling it a dance move. Why the heck is this still a dance move?
A more touching (the other kind of touching) event was when they played “No Place,” a new song about who they call their SuperWomen and their Backstreet Babies. Their families flashed on the screens singing along to the song as the band performed it, and afterward they took a break to talk families and nostalgia. They recounted stories of meeting each other, and Brian Littrell gave a quick shout-out to his wife who, the following day, would be married to him for 19 years.
The Backstreet Boys range from age 39 to 47. They have kids and families. And it’s not like they took much of a break since forming their band in 1993. They are still putting out new music and giving their all to audiences that just want to be transported back in time for a bit. They sound the same, are just as excited and have established they can hold an audience 26 years later.
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“We hope that we can take you back on a journey this evening to the good ol' days,” Richardson said. “Things were really simpler back then. You didn’t have to worry about the job or the kids … so we appreciate you all being here. We love you.”
The band ended their main set with the song everyone was waiting for, “I Want It That Way.” It was everything everyone dreamed, and of course the whole sold-out arena knew every word, note and ad-lib. But by not even using this massive hit as their finale song, the boys proved that they have a lot more hits than you remembered.
For their finale, they popped back up onstage donning Dallas Mavericks T-shirts, and these boys looked great in that blue. They played a new hit, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” and ended with a smashing rendition of “Larger Than Life” that had the crowd losing their minds.
Yep, the Backstreet Boys came back. But did they ever really leave? No, they’ve always been in our hearts. Is that too cheesy? Perfect.