Listen to almost any Backstreet Boys song, and you’ll be able to pick out five distinct voices.
It seems like it should be a given, but it’s not always a guaranteed fact in boy bands. In the case of NSYNC, for example, two members sang lead while the other three’s primary roles were as harmony singers.
Backstreet Boys were always different, though, and each member’s personality has been as big a part of the group as their voice. That element – the importance of their individuality, while simultaneously celebrating that the vocalists are much more powerful in unison– felt like it was at the heart of a Backstreet Boys show in 2019.
Each member took time to address the audience separately, and the spotlight felt evenly divided among the five. Tidbits about their histories and personalities peppered the show, from Brian Littrell’s southern roots to Kevin Richardson’s role as the group’s elder statesman.
But when they come together – that’s when the magic happens.
Monday night was the second time around for Backstreet Boys in Hershey this year, as their originally scheduled Aug. 18 date was cut short after two songs due to inclement weather. The make-up date on Monday night was the final show of their North American run. The tour will resume in Tokyo in October.
“We were not missing an opportunity to come back here and see all these beautiful people in Hershey,” said Nick Carter.
AJ McLean echoed those sentiments later on in the set.
“I’ll tell you what, over my dead body were we not coming back here,” McLean said.
I had the pleasure of reliving my childhood at the @backstreetboys show at @Hersheypark Stadium tonight. Before I share some clips, I want to introduce you to some fans from the audience I met before the show.— Jenelle Janci (@jenelley) September 17, 2019
The 33-song set dedicated a significant portion to the band’s latest album, “DNA.” But fans from the band’s heyday got their fill too, as the Backstreet Boys played almost every classic a diehard follower could have wanted: “I Want it That Way,” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back),” “Shape of My Heart,” “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” ‘We’ve Got It Goin’ On,” “Larger Than Life,” and more.
And here’s the obligatory clip of “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back.)” pic.twitter.com/c10xoN4kl6— Jenelle Janci (@jenelley) September 17, 2019
The group actually achieved the seemingly impossible task of tapping into its obvious nostalgia without being hokey. A small highlight reel of vintage videos played at one point in the set, but other than that, the Backstreet Boys embraced their modern maturity.
During one of the band’s “DNA” songs, “No Place,” a video of the members with their wives and children played on the screen. The group took time afterwards to give well wishes to Carter, whose wife is due with their second child in just a matter of weeks.
And the Backstreet Boys made a point to mention just how long they’ve been together numerous times during the set – 26 years, to be exact. (Carter, the youngest, was 13 when the band formed; Richardson was 21.)
Time, unfortunately, has not always been the kindest to the group. Littrell, vocal star of the band’s biggest hits, has famously struggled with muscle tension dysphonia in recent years. The condition constricts the muscles around his voice box, which therefore limits his range. At times, he was raspy beyond recognition. At others, he pulled through, finding more comfort in his higher register.
Still, when the five singers joined in harmony, it was pure bliss. There are a lot of embellishments on a Backstreet Boys performance, from delightfully questionable costumes to fog machines and synchronized dance moves. But when the focus is placed back on their vocals, it’s easy to remember why they’re one of the best-known boy bands in the genre.
As thrilling as it was to see them do “Everybody” and “Larger Than Life” in all their bombastic glory, a special moment of the show was “Breathe,” a tasteful a cappella number that showcased the band’s raw vocal talent.
And, the audience even got a bit of hope about when they’ll see Backstreet Boys again in the near future.
“There are some rumors we’re going to come back next summer for the second leg,” Richardson said, speaking of a future tour.
Here’s to hoping for clear skies.
I’ll have a full review of the BSB show tomorrow, but here’s a taste of a classic. Be sure to spot Brian on the right holding up a Hershey kiss sign. pic.twitter.com/HcjUtskfQP— Jenelle Janci (@jenelley) September 17, 2019