Washington Post Review: 2/2/01 - Washington, DC
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The Backstreet Boys: Won't Get Carded Again
by: David Segal from the Washingington post Staff Writer
Their teenage days long behind them, the Backstreet Boys are beginning to cross the fine line that separates the utterly crass from the outright creep. One "Boy" is pushing 30, another is balding and several sport a stevedore's collection of arm tattoos. Theyr're getting a little old and a little mangy to play harmonizing Casanovas to a crowd of 14-year-old girls.
And they seem to know it. You get the feeling watching them now that they, like every other guy over the age of 25, find their music a little on the mushy, namby pamby side. There's a palpable we'd-rather-be-Red-Hot-Chili-Peppers- vibe around them, a sense that they'd stand foursquare behind the boy-band backlash if they weren't part of the boy-band problem. Maybe instead of singing lines like "Your my shinging star, that is what you are, there is no one like you baby," they'd ratther be at Hooters, drinking Miche- watching hockey games. The kiddies have made Kevin Richardson, A.J. Mclean, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, and Nick Carter silly rich, but the whole shrieking fan thing seems to be grating on their nerves.
What's worse, while the band ages--it's been around for eight years--the fans don't, since the 18 year olds who graduate to 3 Doors Down are replaced by younger sisters who don't know any better. On Friday night at MCI Center, where the band preformed to support its latest album, "Black & Blue," the growing age gap seemed more disturbing than ever. One overeager girl-child who looked no older than 16 rushed toward Mclean with a hand-painted sign that invited him, in three short words, to commit a felony; "A.J. I'm Legal," it said. Mclean wisely ignored it and kept singing.
In keeping with teen pop traditions, it was a good five minutes in to the show before anyone heard a note of singing or even laid eyes on the boys. Meantime, a super high-tech video screen played footage of five flaming meteors heading toward Earth, amid onstage fireworks that seemed--and this is just a guess--to represent the effect the Backstreeters were having on Earth's atmosphere as they approached the planet. A handful of dancers clad, inexplicably, in monk robes preteded to be waylaid by shock waves.
With the lasses whipped into tonsil-wrecking frezies, the BSB arrived on five test-tube-shaped aluminum risers, which slowly lifted them from beneath the stage to a good 25 feet above it, where they stood inert and surrounded by waves of stage smoke, milking the pandemonium. For a brief moment it looked as if Mclean's riser was stuck and would stand him midair, leading to a moment of genuine spontaneity.It was not to be.
The stage looked like the road show of "Rent" if "Rent" were set in the year 2020; a capable live band provided the entirely incidental background music. The Boys danced in unison, traded faux-chummy barbs and quietly competed to build a fan base for the solo careers they'll inevitably attempt after the group's demise. There were four or five costume changes. The high light: matching all-white tux-and-tails ensembles (plastic, but with a leather look), complete with matching white canes.
In one of several prerecorded hits played on the video screen while the quintet was off stage, the Boys were seen horsing around in their dressing room and changing into their casual duds. In reality, they were scrambling though MCI'z undergound passageways so they could sing a few songs from the middle of the arena. Then they scurried across a long catwalk that, in singular feat of engineering, was suspended from the ceiling and ran from the middle of the arena back to the stage, allowing the fellas to stroll just 10 feet over the heads of the freaked-out throngs.
Musically and physically, the Boys cast themselves as slightly edgier then the more preppy-looking 'N Sync, their main rivals for the boy-band crown. But they sell a nearly identical mix of dance pop and ballads, and on Friday night they never wandered from their sophomore heartthrob roles, proffessing lasting, kissy-face love on songs like their insidious new single, "Shape of My Heart." Given their ages, it's hard to imagine the BSB singing teens for much longer, though it's even harder to imagine how they could change their sound with out alienating their core audience.
They're trapped in a prison made of spandex halter tops. "I dream of boys," read a T-shirt on one of the girls at the show. The "I dream of 29-year-olds" T-shirts were harder to spot.
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