Hollywood Reporter Review: 2/3/01, East Rutherford
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Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.
Saturday, Feb. 3
By Frank Scheck for The Hollywood Reporter
Random thoughts while watching Backstreet Boys perform in New Jersey as part of their Black & Blue World Tour:
Judging by the greater amount of audience screaming that occurs when the video screens feature close-ups of members Brian Littrell and Nick Carter, blonds indeed do have more fun.
The massive set, featuring a giant bridge that descends from above to traverse nearly the entire length of the arena, is so spectacular and efficient that it suggests that whoever is designing their stage show should start working immediately on New York City's infrastructure.
Considering the amount of squealing from the little-girl audience that takes place whenever one of the group members takes off his shirt during the cheesy video "backstage footage," it would seem that the onset of puberty is occurring much earlier.
And, based on the huge number of cell phones that sprang up when the group sang "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," there were more than a few lonely people at home who couldn't snare tickets.
Such matters aside, there's no denying that Backstreet Boys are working very hard with their current tour to ensure that their rabid fans, most of whom attend with their parents, have a great time. Although not exactly a major artistic statement, the show -- with its in-your-face pyrotechnics, elaborate video displays, myriad dancers and flashy set design -- is designed to mesmerize even the shortest of attention spans. And once again, the Boys demonstrate that they really can sing and that their material includes some of the catchiest pop songs of the past decade.
Beginning with an explosion-filled, sci-fi opening that reeks of the testosterone necessary to ward off competitive boy-band interlopers -- take that, 'N Sync! -- the show is a fast-paced affair that takes care to balance the ballads with the funky dance numbers. There are no surprises, no deviations from the formula that has made them one of the most successful recording acts ever, and, considering the expectations of their young fan base, that's probably to the good. Still, the show, especially in its beginning and concluding segments, is such an artificial and spontaneity-free affair that it will have the discouraging effect of making so many young music fans think that all concerts have to be staged like Disneyland extravaganzas.
The show has its cheesy moments, most notably a dance routine in which the Boys fiddle with sequin-covered walking sticks, and their outfits -- they have more costume changes than Cher having an identity crisis -- sometimes display a Village People-style campiness. And the extensive video backgrounds featured so much nature footage that the show might have been sponsored by the Discovery Channel.
The evening featured generous doses from the new release, culminating with the strong ballad "Shape of My Heart" and funky new single "The Call." While the new songs hold their own, they lack the immediately memorable hooks of their predecessors from the first two albums.
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