Philadelphia Inquirer Review: 01/30/01, Philladelphia
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Backstreet Boys: Well-orchestrated for frenzied fans
For local boy, a chance to meet the band that changed his life
By A.D. Amorosi
FOR THE INQUIRER
The noise level at a sold-out Backstreet Boys show is devastating. Strolling the First Union Center concourse on Tuesday, minutes before the opening of a two-night stand by the quintet, wee girls accessorized with cell phones, braces, and Burger King crowns bearing BSB likenesses screech excitedly about the impending show. Throughout the concert, when I'm not pummeled by signs declaring the girls' love, I'm stupefied by the jet-engine roar of their screams.
Frenzy on this level is teenybop legend: Elvis, the Beatles, 'N Sync. But none of their fans nearly threw up on me out of sheer, rabid anticipation. (Not that I haven't been barfed on at a concert. But that behavior is normally the province of Lynyrd Skynyrd fans.)
The show opened with Krystal, a 19-year-old BSB prodigy from Indiana who looks and sounds like a Mouseketeer Sinead O'Connor. The singer, who has a single ("Supergirl") but no album yet, has a screech that managed to be even more painful than the sound of the audience, which by this time had achieved the level of white noise.
The Backstreet Boys' steel-blue stage, which matched the eye shadow worn by most of the audience, is long and narrow, like a ship. The last time I saw nautical staging was at a Village People concert. But this ain't no disco, and the guys - emboldened by awe-inspiring rear projection, fireballs, and dancers in Druid paramilitary gear - ain't foolin' around.
Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, the listless Kevin Richardson (whose phenomenally ill-advised makeover has him looking like a cross between Satan and Robert Louis Stevenson), Brian Littrell (the crowd fave), and A.J. McLean entered to a pumped-up "Everyone," dressed in black leather and in black-and-blue shirts to go with the title of their new CD. The guys' costuming is as well-orchestrated as their songs. Soulful synth ballads and Spanglish mid-tempo romps such as "Shining Star" and the crisp "I Want It That Way" get relaxed-fit outfits in bright colors. Hard Euro-tech tracks, such as "Larger Than Life," "The Call" and "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," that blend arching melodies, ABBA orchestration and Jam & Lewis rhythm, call for darker clothes.
But color coordination can't mask bad dancing, and BSB's moves - widely considered second to 'N Sync's - are still stilted and high-schoolish. Weirdly, that frailty comes as a relief. It lends the fivesome some humanity, always in short supply in processed pop, and is the group's most surprising trait.
BSB's ballads - guided mostly by Littrell, but lifted elegantly by the members' unified harmonies - were silken smooth, as always. Like the sleek '80s soul of DeBarge and the Jets, "Shape of My Heart," "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," and "Time" soared with sweaty adult emotion and heaven-sent vocals while never losing the youthful zeal that makes the now-eight-years-running Backstreet Boys so screamy-dreamy to kids.
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