The Backstreet Boys at the Allstate Arena

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
February 14, 2001

There was a little of everything at the Backstreet Boys’ concert Monday night at the Allstate Arena, from pyrotechnics to druids to ballerinas. But for the youngsters who filled the venue to capacity, all that could have disappeared, and they still would have been happy just to see–and, I guess, hear–Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough do what they do.

In the first of two sold-out shows at the Allstate Arena, the Boys played an energetic 100-minute set that encompassed all the hits from their past three albums, including the current “Black & Blue.”

Was the production as good as any of their three sold-out concerts at the same venue in 1999? No. The Boys’ dancing isn’t comparable to the moves by their rivals ‘N Sync, who collectively exhibit natural rhythm. And while there was a lot going on onstage–with dancers incorporated into at least 3/4 of the numbers and Fourth of July-worthy explosions galore–some of the sweeter songs got lost in all the cacophony.

That said, the venue’s acoustics did little to aid the band’s sound. For all the jokes about boy bands, the Backstreet Boys–particularly Littrell–exhibit rich vocals that are capable of doing more than their song selections allow. The handful of tunes they penned themselves are too weak to qualify even as B-sides. But give the Boys a good number–such as “Shape of My Heart” or “I Want It That Way” by Max Martin, the ubiquitous Swedish tunesmith who also churns out hits for Britney Spears and ‘N Sync–and they harmonize with angelic ease.

Because the Boys have always marketed their mugs as well as their music, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how they looked. The younger fans seemed to echo the sentiments of my 12-year-old niece Tabitha, who said, “Nick is soooo cute! His new haircut’s hot and he’s still a great singer.” But I’m guessing that the moms in the audience were more appreciative of the fully developed dark good looks of Richardson, whose face is now clean shaven (except for his eyebrows).

The band went through several costume changes incorporating black and white leather, trench coats, black T-shirts with glittery designs and even choir robes (which, of course, were quickly discarded). And, in one of the evening’s more popular moments, they allowed fans a video peek backstage as they changed clothes. Never mind that it was pre-recorded.

The kids didn’t care. They were just hoping to see something that was never actually revealed.

“Do you like the outfits we have on?” McLean asked. Littrell correctly complained that they resembled Vanilla Ice.

At their last show here, the group played in the round. While the stage setup was more traditional this time around, they made a nice attempt to give all the fans a good view. Near the end of the concert, they appeared on a small stage at the back of the arena to sing “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” Then they walked over a bridge from the back of the venue back to the big stage.

This satisfied everyone. Even the kid sitting behind me stopped elbowing me in the head for a few seconds to gawk.

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