REVIEW: Backstreet Boys are BACK, larger than life and better than ever at London's O2

June 19, 2019
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It’s been a crazy long weekend of nostalgic bubblegum pop in London. The Spice Girls wrapped up their triumphant stadium tour at Wembley, Westlife were back in business at the O2 and then handed the boy band baton straight over to their American counterparts. I saw all three bands and, while they all did their thing with varying degrees of success, the undisputed champions of retro cheese were far and away the lads otherwise known as BSB. Two hours of pop perfection were matched by impressive vocals, a perfectly pitched setlist and proper interaction with the crowd.

It’s only fair to judge and review concerts by their own criteria, so a boy band is just as capable of scoring top marks as the Rolling Stones or Muse.

The Spice Girls delivered impressive staging and powerful nostalgia, but the vocals were weak and the interactions and stagecraft stiff. Boyzone slammed the opening half but then dropped into an endless, ill-judged Queen medley and dodgy improvised stools banter.

Backstreet Boys delivered all their hits, perfect sound, dynamic staging and some lovely moments with the adoring crowds clustered around the stage.

It was pop perfection.

It certainly helps they have a back catalogue bulging with bangers like Backstreet’s Back, I Wanna Be With You and Larger Than Life. They wisely didn’t tamper much with the original versions, but the latter track was boosted by a modern dance remix break.

If that wasn’t enough to have the crowd scream themselves hoarse, an extraordinary parade of power ballads like I’ll Never Break Your Heart, Quit Playing Games With My Heart, Incomplete, I Want It That Way, Shape of My Heart and As Long As You Love Me. 

An array of tracks from new album DNA slotted seamlessly into the repertoire, but never distracted from revelling in the riches of the past.

Partly because the new material sounds exactly like their old stuff and mainly because the band doesn’t just rely on nostalgia. Unlike many groups, all five members have impressive individual vocals and all hold their own in the slick retro dance routines. 

They also revelled in properly old school fun with the crowd. 

Not just the usual “This has always been our favourite country/venue/city/socioeconomic demographic” schtick, they also crouched down, chatted with fans, flirted, took selfies and actually engaged on a personal level.

It makes all the difference and was boosted by a playful on-stage strip (behind chest-high screens) from Kevin “OK, I’ll show a little shoulder” and AJ while the other three “got naked” under the stage. The crowd duly screamed their heads off.

Nick also shamelessly milked the crowd: “Two sold-out nights at the O2 again for the Backstreet Boys. Does that mean you still love us?”

As if there were any doubt… And this sensational tour showed exactly why.

BACKSTREET BOYS NEW ALBUM DNA IS OUT NOW



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