We sent a super-fan to the iconic boybands sold-out Sydney performance
Images: Vasili Papathanasopoulos ©
Backstreet’s back, alright! The Backstreet Boys are back in town and ready to reignite every nostalgic nineties and noughties memory you have. Opening with the visuals of all their album titles to the score of Everyone and a repeat of “that makes you larger” as we see each Backstreet Boy appear on screen, smoke billows over the stage and we already know we’re in for a wild night on the DNA world tour.
Opening with I Wanna Be With You the stage was set, with Brian Littrell asking, “Sydney are you read to party tonight?” At first glance the group were bringing that usual boy band feel to their tunes, however the dancing wasn’t as tight. The staging was great and created a zone for the boys to move around in a creative way. The set design was clearly something well thought out. It was different and impactful with a diamond shaped runway included, creating a pentagonal mosh pit for fans who were already dancing along. Paralleling this design was a duel screen above that provided the rest of the arena with close up visuals of the action on stage. In a time where some heavyweight acts opt out of screens, this was really smart move from the 90’s icons and something all performers should take into account when putting a production together. It really provided that extra oomph to the show. The shows lighting and laser work early on in the set created a spectacular visual feast for the audience. The Call brought the boy band energy that perfectly encapsulated what we’ve come to enjoy from a group that have honed their sound. The stage was utilised during Don’t Want You Back, with each Backstreet Boy on a platform, creating depth and levels to the presentation of the group. It’s sometimes hard to create a cohesive show with five vocalists on stage and make it seem distinctive, however you could see from the outset that the DNA tour is just that; distinctive. We then move into a solo introduction, where Littrell asks, “Sydney how are we doing tonight?” To which the crowd erupts into cheers of jubilation. He then continues, “thank you so much for coming tonight. You know you could be at Harry Styles, or you could be at Backstreet Boys,” referencing the Grammy® award winner who was performing just next door at Accor Stadium. He added he attended the show and “saw Harry last night, and he was pretty damn good, I’m just gonna say. So thank you.” He then performs Nobody Else, and it’s clear Littrell still has the vocals down pat. Throughout the night he was a standout performer and it brought back memories of hearing him sing on one of our beloved albums Millennium.
New Love saw the dance moves improve significantly and their lower vocal registers came into play, leaving the crowd entranced. Once the boys hit the runway the choreography was on point, with the stunning vocals performances filling the venue. Nick Carter taking the lead in this track with his high notes were wonderfully complimented by the low notes of the group backing him. The classic lyrics in Get Down brought a smile to everyone’s faces, and the cheers were echoing throughout the arena with fans loving the moves and the song brought to life by the boys who we grew up listening to. There’s no other phrase that captures it as well as ‘boy band perfection’. Once again, the lighting worked well with the intonation of the song, beaming throughout Qudos Bank Arena to create an all encompassing performance. “And that’s just how we do it Sydney, Australia,” Howie Dorough says standing solo on stage before asking the devoted crowd, “are you ready for the Backstreet boys to take you on a trip down memory lane?” He mentions they’ll be sprinkling some favourite tracks from their 2019 studio album, DNA, kicking it off with Chateau.
Then the nostalgia hits, and by that I mean, the opening of Show Me The Meaning booms throughout the venue. At this point the arena starts to light up with fans waving their phone flashlights along to the songs tempo. There were some wobbles in the vocals, but it’s a song that you can’t hide within, and ultimately seeing these five lads perform it is something beautiful. Throughout the night they keep mentioning that they’ve been together for thirty years. And you see that in the way they interact, the way they work together, sing together and make music together. They’re the boy band that lasted, that kept delivering the hits. That’s why they perform to sold out crowds. Crowds who sing along to every lyric and dance along to their favourite parts. Then came THE moment, Incomplete. The mesmerised audience was singing along like a beautiful choir, living in the moment. This song has everything and it was great to see they didn’t stray away from the original arrangement. AJ McLean even did the his iconic movement from the film clip when he sang “it’s written on your face.” McLean vocals in this song were sublime, on another level of captivating. A true highlight from the night.
Undone had the group dancing with their mic stands, an ultimate boyband trope, and bringing some rocking moves before they each stood at the five points of the pentagon within the stage during More Than That, giving a great vantage from all angles around the mosh pit and arena. The one thing that never faltered throughout the night was their vocals. Having worked together for so long, I’m not surprised, but I am impressed. It just shows their force as a band and performers, which I know has been mentioned before in this review, but it was so beautiful and really showcased what makes them such an illuminating force in the industry. We also saw them interacting with the crowd here, something they continued to for the remainder of the show. Creating genuinely lovely moments throughout the night and lasting memories for those they made a connection with. Carter then started the usual ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’ chant ending with a thrilling, “yeah!”, before leading into The Way It Is Talk Music? with stunning vocals that hit the arena walls like bells. Chances had the boys coming together to bring that boy band quality back with a performance that created a unity on stage through the vocals and instrumental arrangement. You could also hear the maturity in their performance. The crowd was cheering as the opening notes of Shape of My Heart started, with Littrell asking the crowd to take the lead and sing loud and clear. Their interactions were so fun to see and there was a playfulness to the energy on stage as the arena was filled with confetti. You couldn’t help but look around and see people around the arena bopping along and exuding such happiness in experiencing this live show.
During Drowning we saw band members take some of the confetti on the walkway and hand it to fans, Howie even handed some to the security around the walkway. The collective group singing the chorus was just stunning. Kevin starts to interact with some fans just before his solo and again, you couldn’t help but look around and take it all in. Kevin and AJ are left on the walkway, where AJ says, “happy World Pride ya’ll” mentioning they have two beautiful nights in Sydney and thanking those who held on to their tickets. He also gave an emotional shout out to Ryan, the man who introduced him to his wife, saying he, “pulled a Kevin right now”, referencing Kevin as the cryer and he’s supposed to be the “bad boy and all that BS.” Kevin then asks, “how about we take it back to 1999?” And in the next moment we’re given insight into the behind the scenes take on costume changes. However, these two will be changing on stage, and then comes the line all Harry Styles fans will appreciate, however uttered by Kevin who says, “a family show.” The moments in this part included items of clothing put on display and throwing their own briefs out to the audience, with Kevin ending by introducing the next track saying, “Australia, you’ve always been so passionate.” In this moment only the ladies received a shoutout before AJ started twerking with the camera capturing all the chaos. The full group came back to perform Passionate, bringing another wave of a different sound, showing the growth in their sound over the years. Transitioning into the fan favourite Quit Playing Games, the crowd was loud and clear during this offering. The top point of the pentagon walkway starts to raise and create a small platform that the boys could sit on and walk around, providing a lovely moment for those fans positioned around the venue. Ending with a “we love you Sydney.”
The fan favourites continued with As Long As You Love Me, showcasing the classic sound of the Backstreet Boys; gorgeous vocals, beautiful harmonies and all our favourite moves. Their performance of No Place was featured alongside their official video clip for the track and it was lovely to see this element included in the show, almost like they were including their families in the show. With Kevin saying to the audience, “ya’ll sounded good singing that,” mentioning it was the last single off DNA. He shared it’s a special song to all five of them as it’s about family, something that shone throughout the performance. With Kevin reflecting on how we all grew up together and started families, congratulating a woman who was with child in the audience and a woman who has attended 21 of their 22 Backstreet Boys shows. AJ asked if the shows were getting better or worse, ending with the fact that on April 20th the Backstreet Boys will be turning 30, “dirty 30.” He shares that out of every boyband to grace our planet, BSB have lasted the longest out of all the boy bands and that they’re never going to stop. “So here’s to 30 more, alright. Won’t be as much dancing then, but still, you know?” The boys then delve into a throwback of memories, reflecting on when they started and how old they all were. How things have changed and how they would sing acapella, which is exactly how they got their record deal. They launched into an acapella rendition of Breathe, another standout moment showcasing their skill as an act, as the pentagon platform starts to raise higher and higher. They’re then elevated above the audience and the screens shield the corners of the podium creating a great element to their staging. The lighting also changes to hues of red and white, as the visuals show lanterns illuminating the backdrop during Don’t Want to Lose You Now.
They continue with I’ll Never Break Your Heart, whilst their movement is limited to the podium their boy band moves are back in unison, and the crowd is singing along to the fan favourite. The vocals were off the charts here, creating a cohesive, unforgettable performance. The tracks that resonate most with the audience are the romantic, optimistic early days songs. The ones we grew up loving and ultimately soundtracked our lives. Continuing that thought, we’re then greeted with a visual of the early days as an instrumental intro to All I Have To Give begins. Everyone was standing, swaying and singing along. It’s another nostalgic moment, one that harks back to a time where we all used to record these tracks on VHS and manually rewind it over and over again to sing along and learn all the dance moves. Truly appreciating artistry. The boys state, “let’s go back 25 years now.” Before breaking out into their classic dance moves with their iconic hats. We were treated to a remixed video of the boys singing and dancing to some of their hits, and a remix that would definitely bring the feels for every millennial in attendance. The show was so well thought out, the visuals really added presence to the show, they were interesting and accompanied the selection of songs well. Everybody (Backstreet’s Back) started and the crowd went wild. It only took one word to get every person out of their seat and screaming like they were back in 1997. There was an EDM undertone to the track that brought it into a contemporary setting that worked so well, whilst still staying true to the hit track. The boys came back to the stage in their classic Millennium look of all white, bringing back memories of videos and cover art that are synonymous with the Backstreet Boys.
Feeding off the energy, we were then treated to a medley of We’ve Got It Goin On, It’s Gotta Be You, That’s The Way I Like It and Get Another Boyfriend. A smart selection to put together, showcasing what they can do and giving the audience what they want, more BSB. A tip many artists should take on board, especially when they have so many songs they can work with, songs that fans want to hear every time. Having been to the Harry Styles concert the night before, Styles could have benefited from this due to his catalogue of songs released over the years, and how the pandemic affected the live show element of touring with his music. The Backstreet Boys utilised their stage well throughout the night, this was really shown through this medley, practically using so many formations and nearly every inch of the stage for the crowd and get the best out of the tour. The harmonies were a standout throughout the night and reached the pinnacle during this medley. They bring back the mic stands and boy band choreography on The One, with even more interactions in the mosh pit. There was a party vibe towards the end as people were clapping along to the beat and bringing back the 90’s feel of a time where people lived in the moment and music was something that filled us with joy and happiness. I don’t know why but this track brings A Goofy Movie feels to the surface. Brian asks the crowd to sing this next song at the top of their lungs, and the audience understood the assignment launching into I Want It That Way, with the classic “you sing” ad lib from the boys. Making that experience even more wonderful and memorable. If you thought Harry Styles’ “leave America” lyrics transcended the stadium, the singing during this track could very well rival that. The Sydney crowd did a great job.
The boys win when it comes to the accompanying videos. We had a lovely little interlude before we heard the opening notes of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, with a driving rhythm that gets you out of your seat, smiling, singing along and feeling like you could conquer the world. We see the boys interacting with the crowd, as Littrell even lying down on the walkway to get closer to the fans. The stage positioning here worked well with the camera angles and created some lovely clips on screen for the whole arena. It was really well thought out and commendable when it came to creating a full comprehensive experience for those in the arena. There was no messing around when the boys launched into Larger Than Life, everyone in the audience collectively lost their minds when the song started and the “huh, huh, huh” echoed through the arena. This sound, this style, this energy won’t ever be replicated. We’ve had many groups come and go over the years, but the sound of the Backstreet Boys is a reflection of the time in which they started, what they’ve grown into, their experiences and the ways in which their fans respond and relate to their lyrics and sounds. Their influences over the 30 years, adapting to the ever changing landscape of the industry and how they fit within it. The crowd was cheering and waving their arms along to the finale, taking in the music that helped define their musical tastes, music that created the base for what they then grew up loving. Confetti and streamers came at the conclusion of the show and it capped it off perfectly.
Between the outfit changes, that showcased each of the boys’ unique styles, and creative visuals complimenting the already dynamic shows, my favourite moments would have to be with the crowd. At one point Carter throws a towel out to the audience and the way this hand exploded from a sea of hands to snatch the towel up like it was a bridal bouquet is an image that will remain a constant. The experience of it all was on another level and having seen the Backstreet Boys years ago, it actually doesn’t even compare. The audience was so exuberant, brimming with joy and an overall sense of elation. A true joy to witness.
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Images: Vasili Papathanasopoulos ©
DNA AUSTRALIAN TOUR AUSTRALIAN TOUR
Qudos Bank Arena
Brisbane Entertainment Centre