The Backstreet Boys at the Tweeter Center

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
September 24, 2001

For all the hammering that boy bands get, the Backstreet Boys were the perfect group to see Saturday night.

Just a couple weeks after the terrorist attacks on the United States and talks of impending war, it was a relief to lose yourself in a two-hour show where all you had to worry about was not getting hit with a flying stuffed animal.

The Backstreet Boys show was all about fun.

From the moment the five-man band emerged from beneath the stage on risers to its exit two hours later, they gave their fans a thoroughly entertaining show.

Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting as many fans to turn up at the concert. Unlike previous BSB gigs where snaring a ticket was next to impossible, fans could still purchase lawn seats at show time without searching for a scalper.

But rumors of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. The pavilion was packed. Never mind that ‘N Sync had surpassed the Boys in record sales and quickly sold out a pair of shows at Soldier Field this summer. The Backstreet Boys aren’t going to go_away_without a fight.

The content of their concert was similar to the show they performed at the Allstate Arena in February, but the mood was more light-hearted. The guys were less mechanical. They chased each other onstage, sprayed Silly String at their road crew and played catch with an audience that came armed with more stuffed toys than FAO Schwarz.

My 12-year-old niece, Tabitha–a Backstreet Boys veteran–proclaimed this to be the best Backstreet Boys concert.

“They were all just having fun,” she said. “They were crazy, and that made the show even better than before. They sounded really beautiful, too.”

They sang all the expected songs (“Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” “I Want It That Way,” “Larger Than Life”) and didn’t vary the tempo or the arrangements much from the recorded versions.

Sweet-voiced Brian Littrell lended an angelic touch to “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” while A.J. McLean added an R&B flair to “The Call.”

They also did enough costume changes to give Cher a run for her money. The fans seemed to especially enjoy the pre-taped video peek of the guys “changing” in a cramped, underground dressing room.

There is the phenomena that once a boy band becomes popular, its members do whatever they can to taint their good looks. Kevin Richardson, the most classically handsome member, sported corn rows and a goatee. Bad move. Snoop Doggy Kevin, anyone?

The band itself has faced its own drama, losing a member of its crew in the Sept. 11 tragedy. And McLean lived up to his bad-boy image when he checked himself into rehab for drug and alcohol abuse. When he announced at the concert he was 80 days sober, he received more applause than perennial favorite Nick Carter.

At that moment, he was larger than life to his fans.

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