By: Kevin Rolfe
The Backstreet Boys bought their DNA World Tour to a sold-out Vivint Smart Home Arena on Wednesday, August 7. Twenty six years after starting as a group they’re still selling out venues. You’ve got to admit, that’s pretty impressive. Now I don’t know if I’m the best person to be writing a review about a Backstreet Boys concert or not. First of all, I’m a guy. And judging by the ratio of guys to girls inside Vivint Arena, this review might be best written by a woman. I also can’t say I have ever owned a Backstreet Boys album or would call myself a regular listener to their music. But if you were in your teens or twenties in the nineties or early two thousands, which I was, the Backstreet Boys were unavoidable. My friends and I talk about how lame they were while secretly and sometimes no so secretly singing along to “Larger Than Life”. How many of you know the words to “I Want it That Way:? All of you? It’s impossible to not know the words to that song! They were huge, and their fans still love them. So while I may not be the best person to be writing this review I was the one covering this show. I was there on August 7 and I have to say I was amazed at what I saw.
As I already mentioned, the sold-out venue was filled with mostly women of all ages. It was fun to see moms with their daughters. And it was really funny to see daughters watching their mom lose their minds like they themselves might have a couple of weeks back at Shawn Mendes. It was amazing to see some women who had to have been in their mid-forties to early fifties return to their younger TRL and VMA viewing days and just go completely insane for the five guys on stage. I even saw one woman attempt to throw her bra on stage.
As for the guys who attended the show, I thought it was really cool that many of the men who were there with their girlfriends or wives were getting into it. I recall seeing a guy who upon first looking at him looked like a total tough guy. He had a serious mug on his face and he had his arms crossed with a too cool attitude before the show started. I thought ‘There’s no way this dude is happy to be here. He must have been forced to come.’ But when the music started his face lit up and his arms flew into the air. I started to wonder if he dragged his girlfriend to the show. But I saw this scenario almost everywhere I looked. Guys were really getting into it. Of course, you had the typical tough guy who refused to have fun. I just feel like if your significant other is inviting you to the show and is excited about it, have fun with them. No one is going to take away your cool card. It’s hard to be a guy at a Backstreet Boys concert. You’re basically invisible! The only guys that matter at a Backstreet Boys concert are Brian, Howie, Nick, AJ, and Kevin. It made me laugh to see many a boyfriend hold on to their girlfriends a little closer during the show.
I have to hand it to the Backstreet Boys, they put on a really entertaining show. While they’ve all aged (which is expected since they’ve been in the public eye for almost 30 years), their voices sounded the same. There were times I wondered if their harmonies were being helped by backing tracks. That’s how good they sounded. So if they weren’t, then I can’t think of a bigger compliment. If they were, I understand. They’re dancing all over the place. It’s hard to sound that good when moving that much. There was no visual on any sort of live band, so they were singing to instrumental tracks or the band was hidden. While I understand the focus is meant to be on the five members of the group, I would have enjoyed seeing a band support them in the background.
This is the DNA World Tour because the Backstreet Boys are promoting their new album DNA. Throughout the show, each member of the group would take to the stage alone starting with Brian Littrell. Each member spent time bantering with the audience and talking about how great it was to come back to Salt Lake City before singing a song from their new album. Again, the Backstreet Boys seemed to understand their audience. They condensed each of these songs in order to get back to their hits. I thought it was a perfect strategy. Give us a sample of the album and if we liked it we could hear it in full later. Sometimes a new song can really bring a show to a halt. These never did because they didn’t last long. And the crowd seemed to enjoy these moments with their favorite member of the group.
AJ McClean shared with the crowd that he spent time earlier in the day at the Primary Children’s Hospital. He said that some of the staff were at the show that night. He talked about what a joy it was to be around those kids and to have the opportunity to lift their spirits for a while. I think it’s awesome when someone with a busy tour schedule takes time out to do some good in the town their playing.
I’d say AJ and Kevin’s moment was the favorite of the crowd. They teamed up and performed a duet from DNA. They said that the other guys were doing a quick change off stage but they were going to change onstage. The crowd screamed their approval. They got into these boxes to change. They threw their underwear into the audience and mentioned that this was the opposite of the old days when it was the crowd who would undress throw their underwear at them. (That was when I saw the bra flying through the air!)
I don’t think there was a song being sung that didn’t have most of the crowd singing along. As I mentioned, there was a time where even if you wanted you couldn’t avoid the Backstreet Boys. They were that huge. So of course, I knew most of the songs on the 32 song setlist. Yep, 32 songs! While I knew most of the songs I remember thinking at the beginning of the show that I didn’t know any of the songs until “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” which was the eighth song. But I must have been one of the few who didn’t know these opening songs because everyone else seemed to know all the words.
The segment of the show that seemed to be the biggest crowd favorite was when the Backstreet Boys rose from below the stage in what looked like the outfits they wore on the cover of their mega album Millenium which was the best selling album in the US in 1999. This part of the set included “Backstreet’s Back” and “The One” and finished with “I Want It That Way”. I kept thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this song live”. It was surreal. This was by far the biggest moment of the night. And I have to admit I was caught up in the frenzy.
The Backstreet Boys returned for their encore wearing the Utah Jazz city edition orange jerseys, much to the delight of the rabid crowd. They performed “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” and “Larger Than Life” which featured streamers and confetti flying everywhere. I found myself looking all over the arena and while the group had already performed for two hours, I think the fans would have been happy if they played longer.
I’ve been to a decent amount of shows at Vivint Arena, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard it louder in there. I may have, I just can’t remember. It was so loud. And it’s because the Backstreet Boys understand their fans and they give them what they came for. They sang all their hits, they made jokes about each other and told stories to the audience about their history. They made all the poses we remember. They put their arms around each other and hung on each other just like the old days. They took everyone back. And when you do all that and have the catalog of songs they have it’s going to be a great night for their fans. Judging by the smiles outside the arena after the show I’d say it was an undeniable success.
I Wanna Be With YOU
Nobody Else (Brian Solo)
Get Down (You’re the One For Me)
Chateau (Howie Solo)
Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
More Than That
The Way It Was (Nick Solo)
Shape of My Heart
Passionate (Kevin and AJ Duet)
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
As Long as You Love Me
Don’t Wanna Lose You Now
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
All I Have to Give
Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)
We’ve Got It Goin’ On
It’s Gotta Be You
That’s the Way I Like It
Get Another Boyfriend
I Want It That Way
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
Larger Than Life