By MIKE CHAIKEN
They once sang, “Backstreet’s Back.”
And now it is truer than ever before for the Backstreet Boys.
Earlier this year, the “boy band” — who are now husbands and fathers—released its first new single in years, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The song, as the members explained it on Friday night, is up for a Grammy. BSB now has a new single, “Chances.” And on Jan. 25, they will release their new album, “DNA,” their first full-length album since 2013.
And as evidenced by their Dec. 14 performance at the 96.6 TIC FM All Star Christmas at the Mohegan Sun, 25 years after they first formed, the Backstreet Boys still stir up a tornado of excitement for their fans.
Although there were two other acts on the bill, it was clear that those fans who packed the Mohegan Sun Arena for the Backstreet Boys. And the cheers and dancing in the crowd were a clear indication that BSB still had a passionate allure for fans of harmonies, hooks, and hoofing it.
And as they stepped onto the stage, the Backstreet Boys immediately proved they had lost none of their skills to charm an audience. The dance steps were still spot on. The harmonies, although a little bit sweetened by electronics, were still strong. Also, if the screams from the females—from teens to moms– in the audience were any indication, the Backstreet Boys (AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell) are still mighty easy on the eye.
The brief set, about 30 minutes and seven songs, provided the audience with a journey back to the 1990s. “Larger Than Life,” “As Long As You Love Me,” and “I Want It That Way” probably stoked memories of “Melrose Place” and “One Tree Hill” (for those who have been around for more than 25 years).
The newer songs continued the pop legacy of the Backstreet Boys. They were full of hooks and harmonies. The 2018 vintage tracks also set the stage for excitement in the new year when “DNA” is set loose on their fandom.
If there was any downside to the Backstreet Boys appearance, at seven songs, it was all too short. And another drawback was that it was performed with backup tracks rather than with a live band, short circuiting some of the excitement that comes with singers interacting with musicians.
But, other than brevity, the Backstreet Boys didn’t disappoint their fans.
Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw preceded the Backstreet Boys with an hour-long set, the longest of the night. The audience were treated with his numerous hits such as “Chariot” and “In Love with The Girl.” The crowd were whipped up into a frenzy, when he stepped into the crowd and marched across the auditorium floor, singing the penultimate songs of his set.
With his cover of Paul McCartney’s “My Love,” DeGraw also demonstrated he is carrying on the 1970s rock and roll singer and songwriter tradition of Sir Paul and Elton John.
Opening the evening was AJR, a trio of brothers. Performing an acoustic set, some of their performance reminded me of Maroon 5– if they decided to pick up a folk guitar.
I give the Backstreet Boys three out of four stars, docking them one star for leaving me wanting more. I guess the fans and myself will have to wait until the Backstreet Boys launch the world tour behind “DNA.”
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com