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The Backstreet Boys prove their DNA is still strong

— Review and concert photos by Ashley Cox

Backstreet Boys photo by Ashley Cox.

May 1999, a group of girls are huddled at a lunch table near Dallas, Texas waiting anxiously for one of their moms to arrive with something precious. Finally she arrived with a cellophane wrapped, baby blue CD, the Backstreet Boy’s newest album Millenium. I carefully peeled the wrapping, the first person in the middle school to have hands on this treasure, and we huddled around the liner, gazing at the boys photographed in bright white outfits. Spring forward twenty years, I was living my tween dream Friday at Enterprise Center for the Backstreet Boys fresh from their Vegas residency and largest tour since Millenium. 

It was like stepping back in time but we were all still older. Cars had shoe-polished “Backstreet or bust” signs on the windows. Instead of shirts personalized with puffy paint and markers, groups had elaborate custom Etsy ordered shirts with lyrics or “I was suppose to marry *insert favorite*. Ot my personal favorite, early 20 somethings wearing their idea of 90s fashion which translated to mostly Seattle grunge not the baby blue girly Ts and excessive eye glitter of late 90s/early 2000s pop fans. The Blues and Enterprise Center’s new clear bag policy did ruin the effect of the ensembles but not having to empty every pocket to go through security was nice. 

Backstreet Boys photo by Ashley Cox.

The opener was Baylee Littrell, the 16 year old son of Brian Littrell. His set opened with a video from his dad and the other boys giving him their advice on how to be a pop star. Unfortunately, the reliance on his connection with BSB weaved throughout the set which he really didn’t need. He may have gotten this far by aligning himself with his dad’s influence but I think to truly go the distance, he needs to separate himself from his dad’s legacy. He has great vocals and an excellent backing band. Most songs were country and his voice sounded best when utilizing that twang such as “Boxes” and “We Run This Beach.” My favorite song was actually his most mainstream pop song “Nobody Tells You” which had a country meets Shawn Mendes feel. Country maybe an odd choice for pop tour but we throw this a pass for obvious reasons. His debut album is out this coming November. 

Shortly after 9, the main event took the stage to a truly deafening roar of estrogen laced screams. I thought seeing 40 something year old men trying to dance like they did 20 years ago might be cringey but they have taken great care of themselves over the years. Their dance moves and voices were still smooth. They were also very aware of their aging as well, discussing how old they were when the band started (Nick was only 13 years old). Similar to the Millenium tour, which I got to see not in-person but via Directv pay-per-view (Hello, 1999!), they each had individual moments on stage to speak to the fans. Nick used his moment to remind us that we were there for the boy band experience, for them to “wink at us” and “serenade us with love songs.” 

Backstreet Boys photo by Ashley Cox.

For a career spanning almost 3 decades, they did an excellent job creating a balanced set list. It featured 33 songs, including the encore, from most albums but focusing mainly on their newest, DNA, and Millennium for its 20 year anniversary. Many of the songs were just snippets, not quite falling into medley territory, but featuring abbreviated verses and choruses. The new songs off DNA fulfill the nostalgia requirement for us life long fans but feature updated beat structures to fit modern pop as well. 

The stage setting shows the polish similar to other previous Vegas residency shows I have covered, notably Shania Twain. The lighting and visuals were spectacular. For “Incomplete,” the large screen projected rain while mist filled the stage creating an encompassing atmosphere. But they knew when to take away the trappings. The acapella “Breathe” featured them on a (simple-ish) floating stage, bringing them back to their roots and capturing what makes them last… the goosebump inducing melding of their voices. The Millennium era songs featured the band in glorious full white outfits recalling the memories of the “I Want It That Way” video and album liner notes. For the encore, rising from below the stage, the boys wore custom Blues jerseys while belting DNA’s top single “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and their ode to fans from Millennium, “Larger Than Life.” The night ended in a shower of fireworks and confetti with promises of not staying away so long again.

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