Concert Review: Backstreet Boys at the Molson Amphitheatre
By Ben Fisher
The standard boy band model is typically one that is risk-averse. Take a handful of handsome performers possessing marketable, crowd-pleasing talents, arm them with individual identities, coordinated dance moves and a couple of catchy tunes and cash in.
That’s why it was surprising to see risks aplenty in the Toronto return of the Backstreet Boys on Wednesday night at the Molson Amphitheatre. Here was a band that a) was returning to solo headlining after leaning on NKOTB during their most recent major tour, b) was playing a venue that didn’t lend itself to the heavy pyro and visual effects to which fans of the band have grown accustomed and c) was introducing a new album to a fan base despite being well past their boy band days.
And yet, it worked — all of it.
A predominantly female crowd of 16,000 — adorned in glitter-covered T-shirts and holding colorful signs — were on hand to shriek and squeal at Nick, AJ, Brian, Howie and a returning Kevin as though they were back to their teenaged selves.
The BSB hits were predictably popular (“As Long As You Love Me” and “Everybody” seemed to generate the most frenzied responses), but the crowd was surprisingly eager to buy into some of the newer tracks (“In A World Like This,” the new album’s title track, had fans happily singing along).
The lack of pyro wasn’t much of an issue as it allowed for further emphasis to be placed on the quintet’s dance moves. The Boys were right in step with one another, showing no signs of rust and taking the focus away from some decidedly sub-par sound (not that it would have mattered, anyway).
When they weren’t locked into coordinated routines, the bright lights and cool video packages satisfied the show’s visual need. If and when fans could focus past the blinding lights rotating across the stage, they offered personal screaming salutes as their favorite Backstreet Boy was highlighted on-screen. Each member got his own time to shine in a slickly-produced, James Bond-themed intro video that drove the crowd into an early, anticipatory tizzy.
Unlike the New Kids’ recent visit to the ACC as part of the Package Tour alongside 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men, BSB didn’t have any supporting talent capable of stealing their thunder. After a yawn-inducing DJ set by Pauly D of Jersey Shore fame, Jesse McCartney launched into a 45-minute set that showed his promise, but left fans unmoved except for the set ender, “Beautiful Soul.”
In other words, this was a night that was all about the Boys. And that was just fine with those in attendance because, as Wednesday night showed, Backstreet’s back, alright.