When the Backstreet Boys burst onto the pop music scene, Kevin Richardson was 21 years old; Howie Dorough, a “very mature” 19; Brian Littrell, 18; AJ, 14; and Nick Carter, who had yet “to undergo puberty,” was just 13.
They weren’t supposed to reveal how old they are now, Nick joked at the Manila stop of the pop boy band’s “DNA” concert tour. There was no point keeping it a secret, really. (Everything’s online, first off.) But in April, the group will mark its 30th anniversary. “You just add 30!” Brian quipped. “That makes me 48 today.”
The sold-out crowd burst into laughter and cheering. But then it hit them—or us, rather. “Well, that makes me feel old,” said a nearby spectator, whose sentiment is likely shared by thousands of others in attendance.
But who’s counting, anyway? The boys and their fans may have gotten older, but the songs—and the memories attached to them—haven’t. That much was apparent from the nonstop singing that filled the venue for two hours.
Three decades of hardwork
“Manila, are you kidding me, right now? Look at this place … You guys look beautiful! This means that you still love the Backstreet Boys after all these years,” Nick said. “It’s hard to believe because we have been going on for 30 years now.”
“It’s so good to be back in your beautiful country. And seeing all your beautiful faces brings back all the memories from the past 30 years,” Howie said. “All the reminiscing brings a smile to our faces.”
Mounted by Live Nation Philippines, the show featured tracks from the American group’s ninth album, “DNA,” like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” “Breathe” and “New Love.” The others were performed as snippets, either as solo spots or a duet: Brian sang “Nobody Else”; Howie, “Chateau”; Nick, “The Way It Was”; and AJ and Kevin, “Passionate.”
It was nice hearing that the band still puts out new, well-crafted material that doesn’t sound out of place in today’s pop music sphere. But needless to say, it was the catchy dance bops and the syrupy ballads from the 1990s and early 2000s that had the crowd going crazy.
“I just have to say this. I absolutely love it here. Thank you for being our fans for many years, no matter where and how far we go. You know, maybe I can just move here. Or maybe become your neighbor. Are you still crazy for us after all these years?” Nick asked, to which the crowd replied with a resounding, “Yeah!”
The boys had the fans dancing and jumping to “Get Down,” “Everybody” and “Larger than Life”; singing their hearts out to “I’ll Never Break Your Heart,” “I Want It That Way” and “Shape of My Heart”; and vibing to midtempos like “All I Have to Give,” “As Long as You Love Me” and “Quit Playing Games” and “As Long as You Love Me,” whose sound aptly encapsulate the blithe spirit of late 1990s pop.
Of course, they delivered the songs with those good ol’ nostalgically cheesy dance moves and poses—yet another hallmark of the pop boy band fever. And they committed to them. The boys also performed a cappella numbers, proving that they can still harmonize.
Even with the challenges
AJ’s husky vocals still sound as robust as ever. Nick is more confident and assured. While Howie and Kevin didn’t get a lot of lead parts back in the day, both sound stronger. Brian—historically the group’s most polished singer—has been suffering from vocal dysphonia and dystonia since 2011. While his voice is no longer the imposing instrument it once was, glimmers of its former glory still shone through from time to time.
Aside from the music, the band also gave a bit of fan service, like when AJ and Kevin changed costumes onstage inside a prop box onstage, and then tossed two pairs of underwear to the crowd.
“This is by far the loudest crowd ever. Ever, ever, ever, ever. This is the best place on earth, the best crowd and fans… Did you miss us? Because we do. There’s so much love in this room,” AJ said. “If Nick moves here, I will move here with him.”
“Salamat! Magandang gabi, Manila! I tried speaking the native tongue. It’s so good to be back. I just want to personally express my gratitude. You’re the best singers we have ever heard. Y’all can sing, and I love it,” AJ said.
The Backstreet Boys have performed in the Philippines a couple of times since 2006. And this concert certainly won’t be their last. “To those seeing us for the first time, I hope you have a joyous experience that will make you want to come back multiple times. But if it’s your second or third time, God bless and thank you for making the Backstreet Boys what it is today,” Brian said.
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