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Live Report: Backstreet Boys

Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, Maryland, September 4, 1998

September 9, 1998 12:00 AM ET

A seventeen-year-old girl reports on the Backstreet Boys:

Orlando's Backstreet Boys have come a long, long way. Not too long ago, the quintet was singing a capella covers in random record company foyers begging for a deal. Now, they sell out arenas like the Merriweather Post Pavilion, taking the stage amid a spectacular array of sparklers and smoke to sing their songs to thousands and thousands of screaming fans. Their days of begging are well behind them.

The Boys were quick to please the fanatic crowd, restless after an uneven opening set by Aaron Carter, gorgeous B-Boy Nick Carter's ten-year-old brother. "That's The Way I Like It", an early hit, calmed the chants of "Backstreet Boys, Backstreet Boys," and evoked screams of "I love you, Brian", or "I'm the one for you, Nick." (Actually, I'm the one for him, but I digress.) After satisfying the masses with the song and choreographed dance, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell (Kevin's cousin), A.J. McLean and the adorable (older) Carter thanked the crowd for always supporting them and making them the sensation that they have become -- a show of gratitude that is a Backstreet Boys trademark.

Starting with Sweet Howie D. passing out roses to giddy, crazed girls while performing "My Heart Stays With You," the boys took turns with their solo routines. Each girl was in heaven when her favorite Backstreet Boy appeared on stage and sang a love song meant for her. My serenade came when Nick appeared in a red suit, pausing in mid-song to playfully stare at the audience, then flash a poisonous smile that sent me reeling.

The Boys then entertained the crowd with most of the songs off their self-titled album; their costume changes & dances were executed to perfection. "Get Down (You're the One For Me)", "We've Got It Goin' On" and "Anywhere For You" were approved with deafening screams.

The five different personalities that make the group so unique came out to shine during this time. Funnyman McLean sang one verse of "I'll Never Break Your Heart" to a beefy security guard. A solemn, caring Richardson asked the crowd how they were doing and if they were having fun. Flirtatious Dorough & Carter pointed to masses of hysterical girls and waved, winking and whispering something to the other. Teasers. And a rambunctious Littrell, despite his recent heart surgery, was bouncing off the walls with energy & charisma.

Although some critics view the Backstreet Boys as a Nineties version of the New Kids On The Block, they are far from it. The boys took time out to play the instruments themselves for their breakthrough hit, "Quit Playing Games With My Heart." Richardson manned the keyboards, Littrell the bongo drums, McLean the bass, Dorough the guitar, and Carter the drums. And yes, all electrical equipment was plugged in.

The fabulous Fivesome saved the best moment for last: The stage went pitch black while dance scenes from the original video, Backstreet's Back, played on monitors. On stage, silver curtains parted to reveal wrought iron gates. An eight-foot tall grim reaper pushed through the barrier, making way for five robed ghouls with glowing red eyes wheeling out five oversized, upright coffins. The caskets were lined up, then spun around to reveal a Backstreet Boy in each one. Littrell gave the opening line his all from inside the coffin. There was an explosion of lights and the boys jumped out and into the pumping dance song. With their incredible moves and steps, the Backstreet Boys ended in style. A side-by-side final bow with hands locked prompted a shower of stuffed animals and flowers. But the show was not complete until Carter knelt down and gave the camera a big kiss on the lens ... needless to say, I wish I had been that camera.

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