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MTV Review: The Backstreet Boys Were Larger Than Life At London's O2 Arena

Backstreet’s back and it’s like All Saints have never ever been away...

Boy bands come and go but the Backstreet Boys, who celebrate their 21st anniversary this year, have proved they’re here to stay and the 16,000 fans who packed out the O2 Arena in London on Friday (4 April), wouldn’t have it any other way.

Feeling: So. Many. Feels. Looking barely older than the last time we saw them perform (probably on Live and Kicking or Top of the Pops), All Saints, our favourite post-Spice Girls ‘90s girlband, reunited especially to support BSB on tour. While support acts usually have a hard time convincing an indifferent audience to pay attention, the cool quartet had the whole crowd singing along to their timeless hits including Never Ever and Pure Shores.

But it was the Boys, of course, who were the main event. From the minute they ran onto the stage in co-ordinated white suits, the crowd went wild for Brain, Howie, AJ, Kevin and (be still our beating hearts) Nick Carter. While the last time we saw them in concert (in 2009) felt a little bit sad, mainly because Kevin had left the group, this tour felt like a celebration: of Kevin’s return, the group’s twenty-first anniversary and the relationship the band have with their ever-loyal fanbase.

The Look: Sadly All Saints hit the stage with not a pair of baggy cargo pants in sight. But in true ‘Saints style, the ladies kept it casual in leggings and jackets, allowing their smooth harmonies to do all the talking.

As for BSB, while we would have preferred minimal clothing (shirts optional), we  have to admit that a) the boys shirtless probably wouldn’t have had quite the same effect as when we were 14 and b) the boys did look rather dapper in co-ordinated suits accessorised with leather gloves (Nick) and sunglasses (AJ).

Tunes: Opening with The Call, a solid tune but not one of their most popular, was a risky move but - since the vocals could barely be heard above the screaming - perhaps it wouldn’t have mattered either way.

The Call soon segwayed into Don’t Want You Back before the fivesome - polite Southern boys that they are - stopped to thank the crowd for coming. Throughout the show, the classic hits (As Long As You Love Me, I Want It That Way, Quit Playing Games) were interspersed with newer tracks (from most recent album In A World Like This) while an acoustic session in the middle of the set showcased tracks such as Madaleine and Trust Me. Saving the best for last, the boys shut down the arena with showstoppers Everybody and Larger Than Life.

Banter: Each Backstreet Boy had his moment with the crowd, thanking them for selling out the O2 Arena (we can confirm there was hardly an empty seat in our eyeline), reflecting on their remarkable career, for which they also thanked the fans, and promising to return soon - for which the fans thanked them!

Sweat Factor: Despite most of the boys (“boys”) pushing 40, BSB were still backflipping and crotch grabbing with the best of them, leaving the largely twenty- and thirty-something female crowd lusting after their teenhood idols like it was 1998.

Backstreet Boys - I Want It That Way

Summary: It’s the dilemma every boyband will one day face: what do you do when you’re not a band of boys anymore, but a bunch of grown men?

For BSB that predicament came probably a decade ago and they’ve proven that even with the word “boys” in your name you can still forge a long-lasting career in the most fickle of industries. So while it could have been super awkward to watch five grown men singing the same songs they've been singing for twenty years, it was instead amazing, reminding us of a simpler time when all we had to worry about was homework and getting out of PE.

Since forming over two decades ago, the Backstreet Boys have been a constant presence on the music scene, putting out records, commanding attention and touring every few years. Their passion for the job and affection for each other is why they have succeeded where countless other boybands have failed (just take a look at the Big Reunion for proof) and that shone through at their O2 gig. Combined with their back catalogue of catchy hits and some still-impressive moves, we fell in love with them all over again on Friday night.

Backstreet’s Back? They never really went away.

MTV Rating:

By Karen Yossman @mtvuknews

Set List:

The Call
Don’t Want You Back
Permenant Stain
All I Have To Give
As Long As You Love Me
Show ‘Em (What You’re Made Of)
Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely
I’ll Never Break Your Heart
We’ve Got It Going On
10,000 Promises
Trust Me
Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
I’ll Be The One
Love Somebody
Shape Of My Heart
In A World Like This
Larger Than Life