We daresay any millennial who grew up in the 1990s and 2000s will know the Backtreet Boys. After all, they are one of the biggest boy bands in the world and based on their sold-out show last weekend, they haven’t lost their mettle or popularity.

The Backstreet Boys’ coordinated outfits, cheesy choreography and banter might have been straight out of the 1990s and early 2000s, but there was still plenty of love in Singapore for the five-piece man-band last Saturday night at their Larger Than Life concert at the National Stadium.

It was an unadulterated nostalgia trip down Greatest Hits lane for the 20,000 fans – mostly young men and women who grew up with the band – throughout the 90-minute set.

Fresh off a residency in Las Vegas, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell were like a well-oiled machine for the most part, frequently drawing on the same choreography from the music videos of songs like concert-opener “Larger Than Life” and “We’ve Got It Goin’ On”. On “As Long You Love Me” for instance, there was even the famous chair dance routine straight out of the 1997 video clip, eliciting plenty of fangirl screams.

Their show in Singapore was the only Asian stop for the American group, which remains one of the best-selling boybands of all time.

When AJ announced that the group was working on a new album, screams promptly erupted, but it was clear that every one was there for the classics. And thankfully, save for a funk version of “Get Down (You’re The One For Me)”, they mostly kept to the original song arrangements. And thankfully so – given that everyone was baying for classic BSB.

The Vegas glamour was definitely present in the sharp, sequinned jackets the group donned during slower ballads like “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely” and “I’ll Never Break You Heart”. Ever the charmers, they dedicated the latter to “all the beautiful ladies” and proceeded to deliver silky harmonies on the 1997 classic. The routines came complete with melodramatic hand sweeps and caressing of the microphone stands.

Compared to their 90s rivals N*SYNC, BSB was always better known for their vocals – and they were on full display, dripping with emotion on slower numbers like “Incomplete” and “More Than That”.

Backstreet Boys concert in Singapore

That said, the group always sounded better as a unit than individually, with Brian visibly straining to reach some of the higher notes. Even the inconsistent sound quality at the National Stadium could not hide that. (Note from CLEO’s resident Backstreet Boys fan: Brian has a condition called Muscle Tension Dysphonia, which affects and sometimes inhibits his vocal abilities. He is currently undergoing therapy for his condition.)

Additionally, the punishing heat of Singapore meant plenty of unglamorous sweat from the group whose members are mostly in their late thirties and early forties, and they ended up slowing down on some of their dance routines. It was especially obvious since they were backed by a dance troupe of much younger dancers, who provided dance breaks to electronic dance versions (EDM) versions of their songs whenever there was a costume change to a new set of matching outfits.

Thankfully, it seemed like the men were saving their energy for the last two big numbers – crowd favourites “I Want It That Way” and an encore of “Everybody”. It even prompted fans to stand on their chairs to get a better look at BSB busting out the famous zombie dance routine from “Everybody”.

In his introduction at the start of the show, AJ incorrectly mentioned how happy the group was to be back since their last show here at the Formula One Grand Prix in 2009. In fact, the band was last here in 2015 for a sold-out gig at The Star Theatre – a much more intimate affair with 5,000 in attendance.

Maybe it was the jet lag talking, for the band apparently took three flights and 27 hours to get to Singapore, according to AJ’s Instagram stories earlier that day. But that aside, the quintet still have the moves, the swagger and, most importantly, the vocal chops, to pull off an enjoyable nostalgia fest.

Images: Ng Sor Luan / The Straits Times
Text: Anjali Raguraman / The Straits Times / October 2017

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