Twin Cities Star Tribune: 02/17/01, Minneapolis, MN

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Date: Feb 21, 2001
Source: Twin Cities (MN) Star Tribune
Submitted By: Laura Wilde

Overproduced Vegas-style show left fans thirsting for more pop, punch

By Jon Bream

Star Tribune Staff Writer

It seemed appropriate that Burger King was the sponsor of the Backstreet Boys' current Black & Blue Tour. After all, Backstreet is a fast-food pop - slickly packaged, processed, generic, cheesy, poorly balanced in the essential nutrients (the songs are sticky-sweet), and simply irresistible for kids (and an occasional guilty pleasure for parents).

"And would you like a glow-stick with your Backstreet Boys?"

Probably two out of every three people at the soldout Target Center on Saturday night shelled out $8 for a "Black & Blue" blue glow-stick to wave in the air as the Backstreet Boys carried on for an hour and 45 minutes.

For the 15,000 fans (and their parents), this concert was the ultimate Happy Meal. (Oops, is that McDonald's? Sorry.) The sign outside the arena should have said: Backstreet Boys, 55 million (albums) sold.

But even fast-food has its nuances. And this Backstreet experience wasn't the Boys at their best. Their 1999 in-the-round show at Target Center was much more satisfying and spectacular. (Who can forget the entrance on flying surfboards and later their somersaults while suspended in mid-air?) That show was more energetic and more intimate - and the Boys seemed to be having more fun. On Saturday, only A.J. McLean and Brian Littrell seemed to have a twinkle in their eyes and a joy in their performance. Kevin Richardson seemed stoic, Howie Dorough blasť and Nick Carter intermittently ambivalent.

The Black & Blue Tour is very much an overproduced Las Vegas show, with 10 dancers, several costume changes for the stars and all kinds of ensemble dancing for the five Boys from Orlando, Fla. Their choreography was rather routine, perhaps because as dancers they are more athletic than graceful; only McLean put a strut in his steps and a little soul in his shakes. But even he couldn't overcome the bad hoofing routine with canes on "I Promise You."

The pacing of the show didn't always put the Boys in the best light. They started with a bang, worthy of Kiss-meets-Star Wars. Asteroids flew all over the stage and a giant video screen, exploding all over the place. Finally, the five Boys emerged from below the stage, enveloped in stage fog. In their black faux-leather trench coats (with blue lining, of course), they sang "Everyone" with the key line "this one goes out to you." They followed with the explosive hit "Larger Than Life" and the new dance-happy "Shining Star."

Then it became Ballad City, with the Boys dressing in white vinyl suites to sit on stools and croon Vegas-style. Granted, Backstreet's best stuff on the radio has been ballads. But the middle portion of the show was just too slow for too long. They reinvigorated the proceedings by singing on a small stage in the back of the arena (a strategy employed by the Rolling Stones, U2 and others) and they waltzed on a runway suspended over the audience back to the stage (a la Bon Jovi).

Finally, Backstreet rocked again, with the Michael Jackson-inspired synth-funk of the edgy hit "Everybody," which the Timberwolves used to play as their theme in the same building. That thrilled fans, but some of them might have been disappointed not to hear "Quit Playing Games," one of the biggest BSB hits.

The Boys' singing was solid, with their ensemble vocals clearly their strength. Richardson joked about his solo career at one point when the others left to change outfits, but the truth be told, none of the Boys showed a strong enough voice to be a solo threat. So next time you order the Backstreet Boys, don't ever think of holding the pickle. You need all five of them to make a Whopper.

Opening the show was newcomer Krystal, 19, who was discovered by Backstreet's Richardson. In her four-song set, she came on like the piano-playing love child of Sinead O'Connor and Mariah Carey.

Jon Bream can be contacted at popmusic@startribune.com or 612-673-1719.

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