I’ve spent the better part of a year practically living in music venues in the city of Dallas – it is largely a part of my job – but also something I love to do. Music is my air, and as I live I shall continue to breathe, so naturally, I do attend plenty of live shows that I don’t write about, for the sake of my own personal enjoyment.
This is what I had set out to do last night at the American Airlines Center for NKOTBSB. I bought my own ticket and was looking forward to a night with my girlfriends. I wasn’t planning on covering this concert so much as I was planning on reliving my days as a fifth grader, when, in my mary jane shoes and oversized head bows, I listened to the Backstreet Boys on tape (yes, tape).
I didn’t book a photographer to come with me, my personal point-and-shoot was recently stolen and the only photo I have from the event is an unfit, pixelated, grainy-looking blue and purple image taken with my cellular device. So, dear reader, you will have to rely on my words.
(Update 6.30.11 Our friends at the Observer came prepared with a camera.)
I didn’t even have a notebook with me, so I’m typing out the 30 text messages I sent to myself over the course of the evening.
Despite my attempts to leave this concert documented only in the vaults of my memory bank, for the sake of my generation, this concert deserves a review.
There will be no notation of instrumentalists, whose voice was on or off, quotation of lyrics, or genre classification. This is a cultural experience article from someone who has been a bit of a cultish boy band follower since she knew how to tell time. Also, I will only be referring to each boy bander by his first name.
As I begin to write this, it is 1:37AM, and my memories of opening acts Ashlyne Huff and Jordin Sparks are rusty, so we’re just going to jump right into NKOTBSB. That’s what you want anyway, right?
The NKOTBSB acronym was abundant and plastered everywhere in the AAC as if it were the most engaging advertising campaign in America. Then the music started (cue screaming loud enough to be heard Downtown). A white sheet unveiled the nine members that compose New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys (Kevin Richardson and his eyebrows were notably MIA).
NKOTBSB opened the show with the instrumental to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” and sang a medley of their most famous lyrics, which was an insanely confusing task, trying to balance the feelings of ridiculous giddiness that comes with witness your childhood heroes, trying to understand them and wondering why they’re presenting you with Coldplay. I wound up wishing I was at ACL seeing actual Coldplay.
Still these boys (now men) were sexy as hell, and what with the crotch-grabbing, hip thrusting and stripping, it was sort of like an evening at Chippendale’s. Some of the antics were so outlandish – such as AJ McLean rolling on the floor playing the air guitar – it was almost as if they were in a Broadway boy band revival show, portraying their former selves.
There were no new fans, except maybe the daughters of lifelong fans. The NKOTBSB audience has aged along with these “boy bands” so the sexual nature of the show was highly appropriate and completely relished. The two bands got away with so much more than they would have in their heyday.
New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys switched off singing every other song, giving each set of heartthrobs an equal amount of time onstage. Nearly everything was just the same as it was in the 90s (and 80s, I suppose, as I have found in old VH1 music videos) – the choreography, the screaming fans, the lifting of the t-shirts to expose re-sculpted 6-packs. Only – and I never noticed this for being too busy staring at Nick Carter throughout my adolescence – Howie Dorough is not that great of a dancer. But did he ever do a good job growing up because he’s presently a bit of a sexpot. A married sexpot, but you know how it goes. Brian Littrell seemed to be the most caring of his fans, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd for the first three songs of the show. 10-year-old me was definitely a Brian girl, but had I been an adult in the 90s I would have been enamored with AJ. Hot. Damn.
Dressed in nearly the same white suits that grace the album cover for Millenium, Backstreet hurled themselves in to “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely,” Littrell singing solo at the end of the catwalk stage, and for the first time all evening, my inner fifth-grader surged forth. And screamed. A lot. Nick is still the pretty one, the most boy band-licious, AJ is still a badass, slightly off, his nails painted black. As I pointed this out to my friend, a 10-year-old voice came through and said, “I know, he’s always been the weird one.”
The more I listen to the Backstreet Boys, I’m realizing their songs really weren’t ever about anything in specific. They were more generalizations of love. “I Want It That Way” what does that even mean? BSB never took the time to specify the “what” and my poor parents probably went crazy hearing their 5th grade daughter sing lyrics that included words and meanings that I had no idea what I was singing, and as it turns out, neither did they.
Caught inside my own little BSB world listening to “Larger Than Life” I didn’t even think about the NKOTB fans that would be present, and it turns out there were more of them than there were of me. “I see two generations in the audience,” heartthrob Joey McIntyre noted, “1989 and 1999.” I looked around my section and noticed he was totally right.
During “If You Go Away,” Joey ran down the runway and did a knee slide. His piercing blue eyes and convincing passion came through in true boy band fashion, even though he, and most members of NKOTBSB, boasts a wedding ring when holding the mic in his left hand.
NKOTB sang “Step By Step” in military jackets and during “Cover Girl” Donnie Wahlberg wore a strategically pre-ripped black tank, tearing it off as confetti filled the air. “Dreams really do come true!” my friends exclaimed as the camera panned Wahlberg’s 6-pack.
Fortunately, Donnie incessantly yelled “DALLAS!” because I would have forgotten where I was had he not been there to remind me.
And then it was time for every 10-year-old’s dream to potentially come true. “OH MY GOSH, I am so jealous,” my friends said, as BSB walked into the crowd and pulled four lucky (lucky lucky) girls onstage to serenade them with “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.” “That should be me,” my friends whined, and vowed to purchase tickets closer to the stage the next time they are in town.
During BSB hit “Drowning in Your Love” Nick was packed with energy, pulling out all the old school boy band moves such as the a) slide and step touch b) double spin drop down sing-passionately-toward-the-ground and c) beat twice on the chest, throw one arm up in the air, and sing out with eyes closed.
Song “Incomplete” incorporated the proverbial stripping of the clothing as each member paraded down the catwalk, proving the “Nick is Sexual” sign held by a very astute audience member.
Together, NKOTB and BSB form a world-dominating supergroup with the power to sing the highest of notes and move girls to tears. Single “Don’t Turn Out the Lights” from 2011 album NKOTBSB (which I had no idea had been released) was one of the closing songs.
“Beautiful people of Dallas, home of the World Champion Mavericks,” Brian addressed his adoring audience, thanked us for our years of fanship – 25 for NKOTB and 18 for BSB – and the boys exited the stage as every single girl in the metroplex heaved a reluctant sigh. Best. Night. Ever.
I came home, relived the best moments of the concert with my roomie and regained my hearing in time to listen to Matt Nathanson, for whom I suppose my adoration is liken to a mature adult boy band, before settling into bed.
So if anyone catches me listening to Millennium over the next few weeks, don’t judge. I’m merely reliving Generation Y’s glory days.
Author’s note: Though the Backstreet Boys have a very large place in my memory box, I am an NSYNC girl at heart, and am anxiously awaiting that reunion tour. Ah, that Justin Timberlake. What Elvis would do to be him today.
Author’s additional note: To the husbands and boyfriends who endured hours and earfuls of screaming, I commend you. You are truly something special.
Laura Stillo is the Arts & Entertainment Writer and Creative Social Media Producer for YouPlusDallas. Follow her on Twitter at @laurastillo.
Tags: AAC, AJ McLean, american airlines center, Brian Littrell, BSB, dallas events, Dallas Live Music, Donnie Wahlberg, Howie Dorough, Joey McIntyre, Laura Stillo, Nick Carter, NKOTB, NKOTBSB, Not to be confused with Mark Wahlberg