Is there anything quite as camp as a boyband from the ’90s? The answer is no, and the Backstreet Boys proved as such during their spectacular performance at The O2 Arena in London for the promotion of their new album DNA.
It was the first of two shows in London, which completed the UK leg of an extensive world tour for the group. DNA is their ninth studio album and upon its release in January it became the first Backstreet Boys album to go to number-one since 2000’s Black & Blue. It was evident that this show was going to be an opportunity to plug the new record: the banner hanging in front of the stage before they came on was advertising it, as was the merch on sale around the arena. Though really it came as no surprise that they mostly performed snippets from the new album, leaving more time for their classic hits.
The stage setup was absolutely fantastic: huge screens, pyrotechnics, and lighting design worthy of awards. These things were the focal point as the show began, the opening notes to ‘Everyone’ ringing out and individual promos appearing of each band member on the screens. They soon appeared in person to the fanfare of ear-piercing screams and almighty cheer.
The setlist was a mixed bag that offered songs from each of the Backstreet Boys’ albums, and as someone who wasn’t particularly familiar with the whole back catalogue it was interesting to see the contrast between older tracks, in that very ’90s style of pop, and newer material that is far more contemporary with what people listen to these days. Each member of the group performed a solo of a track from DNA, though AJ McLean and Kevin Richardson teamed up for their rendition of ‘Passionate’ shortly after undressing in wooden boxes that appeared from beneath stage. From there, they threw both their underwear and signed t-shirts into the excited crowd…
Costume changes were aplenty as the evening progressed; one-point in the show saw the group dressed in bulletproof vests, and in another, they resembled Texas Rangers (the law enforcement agency, not the baseball team). The latter part of their set had them dressed all in white, reminiscent of promotion for their 1999 album Millenium, and they went on to perform some of their most famous hits which of course sent the audience going wild. A particularly powerful delivery of ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ had fans screaming back so loudly that they could be heard clearly alongside the band singing themselves, and a similar thing happened during ‘I Want It That Way’.
Each member of the group made sure to address their fans at some point throughout the show, emphasising on the release of DNA and the fact that they’ve been together for 26 years now. They asked who had been a fan for that long, which elicited cheers from around the arena, and who was a newer fan, which notably evoked less noise. Those who filled The O2 that evening were the die-hards, and they certainly were prepared to show it. The most touching interaction of the evening, however, came when Richardson announced that it was the date of his nineteenth wedding anniversary, and that behind the five members of the group were five very important women who empower and encourage them.
An honourable mention must go to the Backstreet Boys’ choreographer but also to the group themselves, for being able to dance so in sync with one another even after all these years. Boybands for the younger generation seldom dance together anymore as it’s becoming somewhat of an outdated art form. It was refreshing to see the group sticking to what they know and giving the people what they wanted. All now in their forties with the exception of Nick Carter (who’s 39), not one of them missed a beat as they gave each and every song their very all.
After a short break, the band returned to the stage for ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ off of the new album, a funky pop tune, before bringing the show to an end with ‘Larger Than Life’. A top-ten hit in multiple countries when it released twenty years ago, it was the perfect end to a dazzling spectacle. The Backstreet Boys may not have the same traction as they did years and years ago, but it’s safe to say that they will be able to comfortably tour the world and pack out arenas for as long as they’re still willing.
Photos by Bonnie Britain.