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Live Report: Backstreet Boys

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

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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