Sun-sentinel Review: 01/22/01, Fort Lauderdale FL

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Date: Jan 23, 2001
Submitted By: Newsdiva D


Black & Blue: A larger-than-life show from the Backstreet Boys

SUNRISE -- By now the heroes of our tale, the Backstreet Boys, are fighting against the very forces of nature -- and apparently winning. Time, exposure, familiarity, an aging audience -- none of the elements that normally wear down a pop phenomenon seem to dent these Orlando-groomed entertainers. The Backstreet Boys opened yet another world tour, this time on Monday night at the National Car Rental Center, and again were greeted by a screaming crowd that remains largely young, female and chaperoned.

The quintet drew from South Florida's vast pool of teen-pop enthusiasts to sell out the first of three nights at the National (some tickets remain for shows tonight and Wednesday). Though sales of the group's albums have tapered a bit from the record-setting levels that carried them into the new millennium, little that happened on stage or off gave any hint that after eight years, the Boys are staring into the abyss of audience fatigue.

There were predictions to the contrary, of course. "The older they get the less interested they become," said Pam Good of Plantation, speaking of young fans including the 14-year-old daughter she accompanied. Omar Hernandez, an on-air personality for pop station Y-100, guessed that perhaps the torch of teen-pop adulation might be passed to another group, such as O-Town, the "new" crew groomed for success on their very own network television show.

"You can sort of feel the pulse breaking in a different direction," said Hernandez. The BSB crowd was having none of it. Calling themselves fans for life, 17-year-olds Daulah Sosa and Vanessa Larrazabal came all the way from Caracas, Venezuela, to attend their first Backstreet Boys concert. Never mind that the flight was "horrible," that Sosa hates flying, and that she was shivering outside the arena in weather Caracans rarely get -- no trip or sacrifice was too much.

"I can't explain it," said Sosa, in gently accented English. "Their music has gotten us through a lot and I wish I could let them know."

Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean and Kevin Richardson no doubt got the message, en masse, from the earsplitting noise coming their way. The show began as a battle -- amplified stage audio versus the combined strength of some 15,000 raised voices -- that would be fought all evening to a draw.

On a set shaped vaguely like a massive single eye, the concert began with a video reel showing the decimation of the planet by meteors -- a stick in the eye, perhaps, for every critic who ever said that teen-pop mania signaled the end of civilization. Live fireworks and flashpots buzzed the arena as meteors on the screen smashed into mother Earth.

And there, coming through the proverbial wreckage and pillars of dry ice, were the Boys. They broke into songs from a new album, Black and Blue and the previous millions-seller, Millennium, singing live lead vocals and five-part refrains no doubt buttressed by taped tracks. The music pouring off the stage was a bulldozing wave -- loud, large and recognizable as something radio has played and played, but short on anything like detail.

Even the Boys' better songs, such as I Want It That Way, saw their prettier features -- swooping key changes and harmonies -- got washed out in a mix that hunkered down on the mid-range frequencies and squeezed just about everything else out of hearing. But enough of the song always poked through to get the audience singing along. And the Boys proved adept as ever at the phonetics of puppy love: "You are my fi-ire/The one deee-siiii-re" they crooned with grand emphasis.

Though the Boys didn't have to sweat to keep the audience engaged, they blew through songs, costumes and dance moves with a rigor that is, granted, more rehearsed than inspired. Turning gratitude into a kind-of-song-and-dance routine has become part of the Backstreet act.

"People everywhere can't you see, can't you see/How your love's affecting our reality?" went the chorus of Larger Than Life, and that formula of direct-address to the fan with the disposable dollar and the undying love was repeated on other songs.

And don't think the fans don't respond.

Adam Cooper, a Weston teen-ager working the program-vendor booth at the show, said he had cleared $8,000 easily on Monday night -- twice what his booth might take in at most shows.

Tiffany Connors, 17, of Pompano Beach, was not toting any Backstreet merchandise but said the band could nevertheless count on her devotion for the long haul. Asked when she might tire of the Boys, she replied, "I hope that day never comes."

Sean Piccoli can be reached at


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