I remember the moment I first discovered the Backstreet Boys. The TV was playing the typical weekend music video show and suddenly I caught sight of these five boys dressed in yellow and orange dancing in what seemed like the inside of a giant disco mirror ball. Their dancing and music style was something I had never seen and heard before, and in those a little over three minutes of being completely captivated, I was hooked.
Cut to 2023, after many years of postponements due to the global pandemic, the Backstreet Boys were finally back in Melbourne, Australia performing two shows at Rod Laver Arena. Three generations of audience members gathered, filled the arena, and the atmosphere was palpable. With the best staging, screens, and lighting (complete with lasers) that money can buy, the Backstreet Boys took to the stage and were warmly welcomed by a cheering Melbourne audience.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as it had been 8 years since I last saw them perform. Even the members; Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough, and Nick Carter seemed genuinely chuffed at how filled the venue of their first Melbourne show was after years of rescheduling and waiting to return. And while the music and performances were fantastic, what I loved most about this show was just how genuinely thankful they all were. They acknowledged not only the long-standing fans in the crowd, but also welcomed those that were seeing them for the first time.
The Backstreet Boys shared that this specific Melbourne concert was very special as it was show number 200 of their DNA World Tour, initially created to coincide with their tenth studio album DNA. But the group also proudly shared that this April will mark their 30th anniversary. So many groups and artists don’t survive for nearly as long, and even those that tried to imitate their success are long forgotten and nowhere to be seen now. So, these achievements were indeed a huge triumph, and the Melbourne show I attended turned out to be a joyful celebration of their careers.
All the hits were there! From ‘Get Down’, ‘Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)’ and ‘The Call’ for the more long-time fans, to iconic tunes such as ‘I Want It That Way’, ‘As Long As You Love Me’ and ‘Backstreet’s Back (Alright)’, with many of the songs inspiring the audience to get on their feet. The whole event felt like one big party that was filled with positive vibes and gratitude in both directions. The group were thankful for their fans, and the fans were grateful to finally be seeing a band that they have loved for most of their lives.
Even though the concert was held in a large arena, everything still felt intimate and personal. The Backstreet Boys each took turns to individually affectionately address the audience, weren’t afraid to playfully poke fun at themselves (there is even a moment where AJ and Kevin change in boxes on stage and throw prop underwear into the crowd), and even the wicked banter they had with each other was wholesome to witness. The Backstreet Boys were also very interactive with their fans, acknowledging many signs made for them, and waving to excited patrons in the crowd. Throughout the show, they also reached over to hold hands with some very lucky attendees.
Multi-talented, the Backstreet Boys commanded the stage with their presence. No member stood out over the other, and it was clear that they were indeed a tight-nit team. Although, after almost 30 years together, you would expect them to be. And while they impressed the Melbourne venue with their dancing, what was even more superb were their vocals and brilliant harmonising. The group even flawlessly sung their song ‘Breathe’ completely acapella, citing influences from vocal groups like Boys II Men.
While I did enjoy every song on the night, my favourite moment would have to be when the group were on a platform that merged with the giant screens to create a flashy pedestal as they serenaded the crowd with ‘I’ll Never Break Your Heart’. It was honestly so awesome visually stunning, and something that you had to be there for.
I understand that many people love the Backstreet Boys for a ‘throwback’, and while that may be the case (for them), considering that the Backstreet Boys never stopped, were never gone, and continue to dish out new music, I dare say the Backstreet Boys are more current and relevant than ever. They never lost touch with their fans and continue to grow as individuals (happily sharing footage of their families during ‘No Place’) and as music artists.
The Backstreet Boys’ DNA World Tour show in Melbourne was brilliant and I couldn’t help but feel elated from experiencing a wonderful concert that I felt very much a part of. Their celebrations were also mine, after being a fan for most of my lifetime. To conclude, I, like many when leaving the venue, couldn’t stop smiling. Hopefully next time it won’t be nearly as long between dance cards before the Backstreet Boys return. But knowing them, as long there’ll be music, they’ll be coming back again (pun intended).
The Backstreet Boys have one more show in Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena on March 1st before jetting off to Sydney for two shows, their final Australian stop in Brisbane, and then Auckland, New Zealand.
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Photography by Grant Alexander.