Backstreet Boys – Vector Arena

DSC_4301First of all, we need to talk about Kevin. Last time the Backstreet Boys – still the world’s biggest-selling ‘boy’ band – shimmied its way onto the Kiwi stage in 2010, they were without one key component. Original member Kevin Richardson  quit the group in 2006, only rejoining three years ago. So the buzz around this, their 20th anniversary A World Like This tour, is that Kevin – the eldest of the ‘boys’, once a model for Versace and now a dad – is back in the fold.

Secondly, let’s make one thing clear. Not only is Backstreet back in full five-man force, but judging by last night’s dazzling performance to a packed Vector Arena, the years have been kind to this band of brothers.  They’ve got the charisma, they’ve got the looks – and they sure as hell still got the moves.

Opening to the James Bond theme and a psychedelic background, the ‘boys’ appeared looking sharp in blue suits, showing off their tight-as choreo and impeccable harmonies in 2001 hit The Call–  and the reviews were immediately in; screams and whoops from a multi-generational audience that pretty much set the tone for the entire two-hour show.

After Don’t Want You Back – where they upped the cool factor with some Michael Jackson-esque dipping of their pork-pie hats- band hearthrob and ‘baby’ of the group Nick Carter  rocked a brief guitar solo in Incomplete and told the audience “I feel 15 years old tonight’ (the age he was when he joined the combo). It was a sentiment shared by everyone in the crowd (this sceptic included) – from the burly trio of bros in the row below me, in their lookalike Backstreet garb who hugged each other and bellowed the lyrics to every hit, to the dads with their kids and the 30something mums in the mosh pit.

The magic really cranked up a notch when the guys vanished briefly for a costume change; when they re-emerged they’d swapped cheeky hats for cool tats as they revealed their toned bods in the sleevless tees of their 90s heyday. All except tall dark Kevin, who remained jacketed throughout, appearing for all the world at times like a Shakespearean actor among a bunch of Tiggerish schoolboys.

And when Kevin invited everyone to ‘party like it’s 1999’ leading into Show Em What You’re Made Of, the audience duly obeyed. For two hours the hits showered down on us like party streamers – Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely, I Can’t Breathe, As Long as You Love Me, Everybody, I Want it That Way, Larger than Life – and in fact the whole night felt like a wild celebration you didn’t want to leave… scattered with surreal moments like AJ (McLean) pacing up and down the front of the stage in silver metallic high-tops talking about being a dad.

At one point Nick summed up where the band is at:  ‘We could dance, we could sing, and now we play instruments’ (acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards). Yep, they’re polished alright. Backstreet on the back-burner? Hell no; they’ve shown us what they’re made of, and it’s very durable indeed.

– Maria Hoyle

Click on any image to view a gallery of concert photos by Michael Flynn: