Backstreet Boys - Comerica Theatre - 9/5/2013
All photos by Maria Vassett
September 5, 2013
The Backstreet Boys have been in comeback mode--yes, I know the album’s called Never Gone--for almost 10 years now. I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about how weird that is.
When bitter rivals *NSYNC made their comeback at the VMAs recently it was both enormously well-received and basically unrepeatable. Justin Timberlake’s schedule wasn’t the only problem: Once they’d made their grand comeback, it was impossible for them to ever be so completely and permanently ’90s again. They were suddenly, permanently, 2013.
The Backstreet Boys, at least to the outside world, have given up on remaining in 1999 forever. But inside Comerica Theatre last night it was clear that they’ve reserved the right to try to get back there on stage.
The result was a long, weird show, but as what looked like an almost-sold-out crowd filtered in we were still firmly in the present. DJ Pauly D held the floor until 8:30, basically reminding people with no dancing space that they liked "Blurred Lines." He had the crowd on his side, but there wasn't much to do with them once they got there.
Jesse McCartney was up next, exuding vaguely oily competence. He's got an undeniable set of pop songs to play with, but as a performer something about his put-on diction and tendency toward interpretive dance (this song's about a phone, like the one I'm pretending to dial) and, okay, his turquoise dinner jacket left him presenting as a hyper-confident cruise-ship entertainment director. And like a cruise-ship entertainment director, it was both unconvincing and weirdly, vaguely inappropriate when it came time to boast winkingly about having The Best In Town. (His ladies simply cannot resist having no-strings-attached sex with him. Just nothing to be done about it.)
But his set was short and basically well-received--even during the opening and closing dubstep solos, which were a real thing that happened--and his collection of more recent hits had the desired effect of easing the crowd back in time. After dubstep solo No. 2 he led the crowd in a jarringly unchanged singalong of "Beautiful Soul," depositing the audience in 2003, where Nick Carter could pick them up.
And at 9:40 he finally did. Entering the stage to the James Bond theme, for some reason, the Backstreet Boys--in matching suits, in front of a brighter-than-daylight stage--launched right into "The Call," for some reason. It's kind of a nostalgia-act power move, a reminder that they were relevant long enough to start their set with a string of b-level hits.
If you've seen the Backstreet Boys out promoting their latest album you might be under the impression that they've gone full-on American Idol adult contemporary. They have--in 2013. But aside from a few reminders that they can play instruments during the post-comeback ballads it has absolutely no bearing on their live show.