Charlotte Observer Review: 01/26/01, Charlotte
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Backstreet Boys need new path
In today's overly fabricated pop world, performers desperately try to distinguish themselves from the competition.
In recent concerts, Christina Aguilera sang a blues standard, and 'N Sync used a variety of set changes and skits. Friday, the Backstreet Boys tried to establish themselves as crooners a la Boyz II Men.
They're not Boyz II Men, not even New Edition. Make no mistake, the Backstreet Boys have some of the best harmonies on the market, but Friday's show at the Charlotte Coliseum desperately needed a shot of adrenaline.
Their young prepubescent fans - still a large part of the group's following, no matter how much the guys ignore them - didn't pay $58.50 to listen to them sing ballads for 90 minutes.
Backstreet Boys - Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean and Nick Carter - sang slow songs mostly from "Millenium" and "Black & Blue", to the 19,054 capacity crowd. It was as if they were trying to ram their newly acknowledged adulthood down the audience's throat.
The girls lapped it up like lovesick puppies, shrieking an twirling blue Glo-sticks in the air.
Despite the lethargic pace, the show had plenty of gimmicks. There was a long dressing-room scene in which fans got a backstage peek at the guys changing clothes and playing around in the dressing room.
They reappeared on a small, round stage in the middle of the floor where they performed "I'll Never Break Your Heart", "How Did I Fall In Love With You" and other slow tunes.
Early songs were fan-appreciated tunes "Everyone" and "Larger Than Life".
"Charlotte, it's good to see you again," Richardson said. "You're like our fourth show. We're still getting everything warmed up real good."
The group kicked off its tour Monday in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The have some more work to do.
The group started stiffly and seemed unfamiliar with the set, which was shaped like a banana with inclines at both ends that extended out into the audience.
Carter almost did a split when he tried to walk down one of the inclines. His reaction was one of relief that his alto voice didn't turn into a soprano. Littrell accidentally started singing Carter's part in "I Want It That Way" and then he tripped as he started walking toward the underused band.
The band performed the songs exactly like on the album and didn't stretch until the members were introduced late in the show.
Though the pace picked up near the end with "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)", it's obvious the group is going through an identity crisis. They took special care to mention the tunes they wrote, such as "Time", and Richardson listed all the members' charitable foundations.
"We're all trying to make our world a better place", he said.
Growing up isn't easy, especially in the national spotlight. If the Backstreet Boys want to separate themselves from the pack they should do what New Edition did in the late 1980's: disappear for awhile and return as men, not men-children.
Tonya Jameson - Pop Music
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