By Kristy Koehler, July 31 2019—
Backstreet was back at the Saddledome on July 24, bringing ‘90s nostalgia to a sold-out crowd. They still know how to put on one hell of a show.
BSB were last in Calgary in May 2015 and the thing that struck me most about their performance then was the same thing that struck me this time around — the Backstreet Boys genuinely appreciate their fans. It’s palpable in everything they do, from the way they construct their setlist to end their show with “Larger than Life” — a song about their appreciation for the fans — to each band member giving a thoughtful interlude detailing what fan support has meant to them over the years. Most bands customarily thank their fans — and probably mean it — but what’s remarkable about the Backstreet Boys is that it’s so incredibly genuine and heartfelt.
The Backstreet Boys started 26 years ago, before streaming platforms and before the MP3 player. I was eight when they became a household name and I used to sit by my enormous stereo, waiting to record their songs onto a cassette tape and praying that the radio announcer didn’t keep talking after the song’s intro had started.
I’m 32 now. The oldest member of the group, Kevin Richardson, is now 47, while youngster Nick Carter is 39. The audience is older now too — those of us who were fans in our pre-teen years are adults. The screaming from the crowd was at a decibel level I’ve never heard at a concert before — apparently, the crowd is not only older, they’re thirstier too. I remember their boy band dance moves being much more wholesome than Nick Carter’s hip thrusts and crotch grabs are now. The audience definitely noticed the sexier version of BSB — and appreciated it with even more screaming.
I also noticed something else I didn’t pay attention to years ago — the Backstreet Boys can actually sing. They have incredible voices that shine through on their slow jams.
They played snippets from their new album, DNA, but knew what their fans really wanted — the hits from their teen years. The screaming intensified when the group changed into white suits reminiscent of their Millennium album cover and launched into “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” The hits kept coming as they executed perfectly-choreographed dance moves to go along with songs like “We’ve Got It Goin’ On,” “It’s Gotta Be You,” “The One” and finally, “I Want It That Way.” These guys can still move like they did more than two decades ago and the audience still remembered all the words to their songs.
For the encore, BSB came out decked out in Calgary Flames jerseys. It’s a show-closing schtick they used five years ago and continue to use in multiple Canadian cities on their tour — they came out in Jets jerseys in Winnipeg — but it resonated with the audience as much then as it did now. For such a simple thing, it shows that the Backstreet Boys know their audience — and appreciate them.
The DNA World Tour is their largest arena tour in 18 years and they just wrapped up a residency at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas. On stage, the band said they hoped to be playing 26 years from now. Here’s hoping that’s the case — I enjoyed them as much this time as I did five years ago, and maybe even more than I did when I was still putting their songs on my mix tapes.