Wall Of Sound Review: 01/22/01, Fort Lauderdale FL

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Date: Jan 23, 2001
Source: Wall Of Sound
Submitted By: Gina

ependable Backstreet Boys Kick Off Tour

(Vaughn Youtz/Zuma Press)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. While the members of the Backstreet Boys say they're determined to grow musically and transition past their teen sensation status, their fans should be pleased to know that no such boat rocking was on display Monday night as the guys launched their newest world tour this time in support of their current release, Black & Blue. Materializing on the National Car Rental Center stage amid five thick puffs of white smoke, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean, and Kevin Richardson did pretty much as they always do, laying on the hits, the costumes, the dancers, the pyro, and occasional flashes of greatness.

In a quick, 90-minute show (the first of three at the Nat this week), they sailed through staples such as "Larger Than Life" and new songs including "The Call," overcoming first-night tech glitches like a temperamental ramp that misbehaved when it was supposed to transport them over the entire arena floor.

And so, after a sweet rendition of "Time" (the best of the group's self-penned tunes), they found themselves momentarily stranded at the back of the hall while their set unhinged. But not to worry. They made a smooth exit out a rear passageway, reemerging on the main stage moments later while their musicians vamped fans none the wiser.

Hardly great theater, but what it demonstrated was that after eight years together, the guys punt like pros.

What they could not quite overcome was a dreadful sound mix that was unnervingly and dangerously loud. Not since the aural idiocy of '80s hair bands has an entire show been drenched in such ear-ringing distortion.

Whether this too was a technical problem to be ironed out or some sort of misguided attempt at "growth" (or worse, machismo) was not quite clear.

Whatever the reason, it left much of what the guys said and sang sounding as if it came from a warped cassette that had been left to bake on the dashboard in July.

Luckily, the strong melody lines of their best hits elbowed through the din to save the day. The group's chief songwriter, Max Martin, crafts Top 40 confections as skillfully as any of the classic pop tunesmiths and as long as he keeps doing so, talk of boy band flame-out will remain premature.

The evening hung squarely on sturdy singles such as "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," "I'll Never Break Your Heart," "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," and the winning "I Want It That Way" all of which hold up quite nicely. The shining moment was the late-in-the-evening showstopper "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," complete with precise, "Thriller"-esque choreography and moody lighting. Except for some occasional crotch grabbing (also seemingly inspired by Michael Jackson), it was mostly clean, harmless fun, all adoringly lapped up by the roughly 16,000 fans on hand.

Now deep in their sixth year of fame, the Boys have already lasted twice as long as anyone predicted. Whether they can keep this train rolling is anyone's guess and will probably depend more on shifting musical tides than anything they do or don't do.

What is certain is that Backstreet Boys will be Backstreet Boys and continued carping from critics, who suggest the guys have some sort of obligation to seek greater musical integrity, is just plain stupid. The best pop music has always been the fun stuff most of us can hum while breezing down the highway. On that note this group more than delivers. Deborah Wilker

Deborah Wilker has been covering music for newspapers and television since the last days of disco.

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