‘Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life’ Las Vegas Residency: A Lifelong BSB Fan’s Review
The moves are shy and awkward, but they are my first on a “dance floor.”
I’m in a friend’s kitchen in Montreal, and I'm listening for the first time to a group that's all the rage up north. “Get down! Get down! And move it all around!”
I don’t know what the group members look like, but my eight-year-old self falls in love with the catchy song. “Get down! Get down! And move it all arou-und!”
These might actually be the first English words I ever learned: I’m bilingual now and closing in on 30 years old. My moves are as awkward as ever – if not more, and my love for the Backstreet Boys is as strong as ever – if not stronger. So when, last September, the group announced its Las Vegas residency, I promptly made travel plans.
21 years after dancing to "Get Down" for the first time, I find myself at the Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood on the Las Vegas strip on Wednesday night (March 8), (im)patiently waiting for what the band's oldest member Kevin Richardson, now 45, describes as a BSB show “on steroids.”
Finally, 9 PM strikes, and the lights go off. A video paying homage to the boys’ 24-year career precedes the concert.
In retrospect, it's the perfect introduction to the nostalgia-filled show that follows: from their first international hit, "We’ve Got It Goin’ On," to their biggest hit, "I Want It That Way," to (arguably) their latest, "Incomplete," the BSB focus their Larger Than Life residency show on the first half of their lengthy career.
The curtain disappears. High-pitched screams erupt. Five silhouettes appear. The screams get louder...and then quiet down once the crowd realizes the silhouettes are just images on screens. The screens turn around, and Nick Carter, AJ McLean, Brian Littrell, Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson appear dressed all in white. The crowd goes wild. Here starts Larger Than Life – both the show and the song.
The five men take fans “down a trip to memory lane” throughout the night, in Howie’s own words, with both upbeat and slow songs. Their maturity transpires in the music.
On the one hand, the boys pull on '90s kids’ heartstrings by bringing back some of their staples to success, including the chair choreography on "As Long As You Love Me" and their kick after the bridge in "We’ve Got It Going On."
On the other, several songs offer new arrangements: both "The One" and "Drowning" highlight harmonies more than their recorded versions, especially in the chorus, and the infamous "Get Down" (see the 3-minute mark in the video below) and "The Call" (see the introduction to the second video below) supply new instrumentation.
Everything is perfectly orchestrated, from the ten dancers’ choreography to the edited videos and the impeccable light shows.
The years without Kevin are represented with a rendition of "Undone," during which the crowd falls silent. Through this song, and other less famous ones (including "Darlin’" from the group’s 1996 self-titled album and "Get Another Boyfriend" from the 2001 Black & Blue album), it's obvious that the crowd doesn't consist of lifelong fans, unlike other recent Backstreet Boys concerts. This actually hinders the experience of the night: the atmosphere isn't as loving as usual toward the singers, keeping interactions to a minimum.
Of course, Nick makes his heartthrob comments, asking the “ladies” how many got “a hall pass with a BSB for the night.” Brian's true to himself too, joking with the crowd (“Do you have BSB tapes, CDs and DVDs?” followed up with his usual “me too!”). AJ, the only BSB to have a daughter (all others have sons), recognizes women for International Women’s Day. “We’d be completely lost without you,” he says. The more serious Kevin and Howie stick to introducing songs and thanking everyone that made the show possible.
The end of the show is perhaps the most engaging moment from the crowd, as the boys leave the stage to sing part of "All I Have to Give" in between two sections of the arena, right in the middle of the fans.
"Shape of My Heart" follows, and AJ pulls NSYNC’s Joey Fatone from the crowd in order to serenade him. Joey responds by cradling AJ in his arms and kissing Nick passionately.
Overall, the show is indeed a BSB show “on steroids": AJ’s casual F-bombing, and the female dancers dressed in PVC and harnesses, make it less suitable for kids than usual BSB concerts, but this is the most mature and visually accomplished BSB concert I've ever seen.
The night wraps with the BSB’s two biggest hits: "I Want It That Way" and "Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)." Fans rock their body one last time, and the boys say their goodbyes under a pink confetti rain. As for me? I’ll bring my awkward moves back to the Axis again on Friday night — and I can’t wait.
Larger Than Life Residency Setlist
"Larger Than Life"
"I’ll Be The One"
"Every Time I Close My Eyes"
"Quit Playing Games With My Heart"
"Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely"
"I’ll Never Break Your Heart"
"Anywhere for You Darlin’"
"As Long As You Love Me"
"We’ve Got It Goin’ On"
"Get Another Boyfriend"
"More Than That"
"All I Have To Give"
"Shape Of My Heart"
"Straight Through My Heart"/"It’s Gotta Be You" (Dance Break)
"I Want It That Way"
"Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)"
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