Detroit Free Press Review: 2/15/01, Pontiac, MI
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Date: Feb 18, 2001
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC CRITIC
Backstreet Tries To Keep It Rolling
Something strange happened between November 1999 and Thursday night.
The letters stopped.
Last time the Backstreet Boys were in town, 14 months ago for three sold-out shows at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the fan correspondence poured into the Free Press. My inbox virtually sagged from the weight of e-mail sent by BBoy fans, angry or elated over something I'd written, or merely curious about the group. No, I couldn't get you backstage tickets, Katie, and yes, Elizabeth, I understood why you assumed I was just old, ugly and jealous.
But as the group arrived Thursday night at the Pontiac Silverdome for the latest show on its Black & Blue tour, I'd heard nary a peep. Anecdotal evidence, to be sure, but it was enough to make me wonder just how hot the flames of passion were running these days for pop music's onetime earth shakers.
Well, the Silverdome was packed, sure enough, with a crowd of about 40,000 that looked decidedly younger than the audiences in 1999. As the group took the stage astride rising columns, following a barrage of fireworks and explosions, the obligatory screams kicked in. The Silverdome's mammoth reverb amplifies everything, and I'll still bet my laptop the noise didn't top any of the Palace shows.
The Boys -- sporting a revamped, rougher look -- kicked off with a string of upbeat numbers ("Everyone," "Larger Than Life," "Shining Star"). A long stretch of ballads followed, capped by the honey harmonies of "I Want it That Way."
"This next song, we want to dedicate to all the ladies," Kevin Richardson told the screaming crowd before launching into one of the night's glossy ballads. It was about as redundant as, "Are you guys having fun?" Has there been anything since this group was founded in 1993 that HASN'T been dedicated to the lucrative young estrogen crowd?
So it went for nearly two hours: Another up-tempo radio song, another slick slow song, another "spontaneous" moment with the crowd.
An air of weariness hung over the stage at times, and this tour is only four weeks old. You got the feeling that when the eventual "Behind the Music" special is put together, this might be that pivotal career moment when the Backstreet Boys reached their backstage breaking point. How long can five grown men inhabit a world of stuffed teddy bears, piercing prepubescent screams and oceans of blue glow sticks?
Not that the task isn't handled with utmost professionalism: Thursday night the Boys smiled, creased their brows or wiggled their hips at all the right moments. They did their best to appear interested.
Fourteen months is a lifetime in popular culture, an aeon in teen pop. The Backstreet Boys are still far from falling off the musical map. But you get the distinct feeling they've inched just a few steps closer. And I'll be happy to hear what you think about that.
Written by Brian McCollum
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