As far as reunion shows go, the DNA World Tour is the best I’ve seen so far. For reference, I’m comparing this concert to ones recently concluded by Boyzone, A1, Blue, and Westlife. Even among the biggest touring artists of today (e.g. Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 and John Mayer), the Backstreet Boys can stand their ground and proudly say they can compete with this generation of heavy-hitters.
What stood out for me during the entirety of the show is how little the boys relied on nostalgia. Instead, they brought their A-game and gave performances that could rival their own during their prime.
The overall production was top-notch. The choreography was rehearsed and in sync with their iconic 90s dance moves. “All I Have to Give” was a treat for the ears and the eyes. Costumes were silly, likely inconvenient and hot to move around on. But that didn’t stop Kevin from wearing his signature trenchcoat, or from the boys wearing leather jackets and all-white ensembles. The backdrop and video interludes were well crafted – as if the boys still lived in the MTV era they used to dominate.
They successfully figured out a smart way to get out of the “setlist dilemma”. The boys wanted to advertise their new album. Individually, they would remind the audience to get a copy of DNA. During breaks, where one member of the band entertained the crowd while the others changed or rested, the one in charge would sing one song from their latest – the first part and the chorus – intended to showcase their new creations to the fans. Utilizing the downtime with snippets is a good way to manage the limited time during concerts. It’s also a good way to accommodate the huge discography artists have.
In the end, people wanted the classics. I could not stop gushing at them singing “We’ve Got It Going On”. I hate remixes. But I’ve been looking at YouTube for the version that was used for “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. It’s an update I didn’t think I needed. “Quit Playing Games (with My Heart)”, “Drowning” and “As Long as You Love Me” took me down memory lane and how powerless I am to crooners.
It’s worth noting that the boys’ vocals are still intact – both the range and the character that made them distinctive. Bryan’s pitch and range continue to be my favorite aspect of their songs and performances. AJ’s soulful tone remains (and I would argue is heavily underappreciated). Nick, Kevin, and Howie do what they do best – grand, deep and understated respectively.
The boys are self-aware and have a sense of humor about the 26 years that have passed. They crack jokes on stories of the past – e.g. Nick’s voice that hasn’t hit puberty when they started out. They play around and act like goofy brothers on stage. Kevin and AJ even throw out underwear to the crowd – reversing the phenomenon they were victims of decades back.
Even without the adoration of the Backstreet Boys in my DNA, I would still choose to watch them again. I give respect to people who work as hard as they do and never take a minute of being on stage for granted.