Live Review: Backstreet Boys - Allphones Arena, Sydney (09.05.15)

Backstreet’s back and these five men, well grown from boys, are very much here to put on a show for the largely female 25 to 40 year olds dominating the audience tonight. AJ Maclean, Howie Dorough (aka Howie D), Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson and Brian Littrell’s collective appeal has hardly waned in 20 years it seems. Appearing silhouetted red on the top of the pyramid stairs, with a James Bond 007 entrance track they waste no time launching into their set.

“The Call”, “Don’t Want You Back” and “Permanent Stain” off their most recent record In A World Like This (2013) start things off in rapid succession, as the men dressed in matching blue suits with white shirts and black patent shoes perform their synchronised dancing. The screams from the audience on occasion drown out the singing and the even louder backing track but the hysterics only serve to make the guys play up to it even more. Early on they lay down the three rules, that what happens in Backstreet land, stays in Backstreet land. That they want us all to go crazy (cue more screaming) and lastly that regardless of what anybody thinks, it’s OK to act like you’re 15 years old tonight (cue even more screaming).

They still haven’t lost any of their smooth dance moves either, perfectly showcased in their choreographed routine for “All I Have To Give” which was almost a replica of the original video clip dance moves, the only thing missing was the fold-up chairs. And after this whilst they duck away for an obvious costume change, they play a blatantly tongue-in-cheek video of each of the band members discussing who is the sexiest, the biggest diva, or the most serious member. It’s clear that even the band are well aware of the labels they got plastered with in their heyday.

Returning to the stage in more relaxed street wear in red/black colour combinations we get a few more of the slower numbers “As Long As You Love Me”, “Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely” and another new song “Show Em (What You’re Made Of)” which AJ and Kevin co-wrote as a dedication for their kids. And it’s only in those occasional moments when the guys joke about their ages or that they have kids, or that some of the younger members of the audience were being breastfed when their self-titled first album was released, that you realise that these are most definitely middle-aged men now. But it seems that regardless of their age, they’re still able to pelvic thrust with the best of them, evident during “We’ve Got It Goin’ On For You” that has a roaring foot stomping bass line that gets us all moving in our spots.

They take a moment about mid-way through the show to sit down with guitars, bass guitar, and some percussion to play an acoustic set. With Howie joking that it was their way of future-proofing the band since they wouldn’t be able to shake their asses forever. But this of course only resulted in the crowd and his bandmates egging him on to present a display of said butt-shaking, much to the delight of the ladies in the front row. But it’s actually nice to finally not have the often way-too-loud backing track blaring at us and instead have a calmer sound wafting over the audience.

As they reach the back end of the show their pre-encore numbers of “Shape Of My Heart” and crowd favourite “I Want It That Way” really showcases their fantastic vocal harmonies which are completely on point throughout the entire show. They close out their set with two of their biggest hits “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “Larger Than Life” which sends the entire arena into a meltdown, particularly when Brian ventures into the crowd for the final song.

Aside from the lack of an actual band to play their music and the obnoxiously loud backing tracks, the positives to take away from this show far outweigh any meagre complaints. Vocally they are all in fine voice, maybe it’s because they’ve been on tour for the last two years but they sound magnificent. They’ve cleverly reworked a couple of songs to drop a half octave or so here and there to compensate but you can barely notice it. And you can tell that they are all having a lot of fun as they dance and wink at the audience or wave at women flailing at them wildly, particularly Nick and Brian who seem to lap up the extra screams they get. Let’s hope the Backstreet Boys keep their promise of returning to our shores to play for us again soon.

Remaining Tour Dates:
May 15th - Perth Arena