Nick Carter, Brian, AJ, Howie and Kevin. Backstreet’s back, alright!
When the ticketing platform, BookMyShow released a teaser, with just a very familiar silhouette of five men, on Instagram in February, there was a speculation frenzy—are they or are they not coming to India? They indeed were. Backstreet Boys, one of the biggest boy bands from the ’90s, finally put India on their world tour roster.
A month later, when the venue was disclosed, the palpable excitement reached a crescendo because the tickets were going to be available soon. The maniacal search for the partnering financial institution’s credit card for the early-bird tickets, in the fear that they will be sold out, was as comic as it was desperate. Assuredly, credit card onboarding for the organisation must’ve seen an uptick.
May 4, 2023, will be etched in the memories of, as the band acknowledged, “three generations of Backstreet fans,” in India. The sight of a sold-out and packed Jio World Garden in Mumbai was evocative as throngs of millennials, boomers and even a spattering of Gen-Z crooned and swayed to the now-by hearted lyrics to BSB love songs. For a band that’s never had a single reach the coveted No 1 position, that’s saying something.
That should set a preamble for India’s passion for Backstreet Boys and this concert.
A shared memory of youth
Back in the ’90s, for a 13-year-old, that one cassette of Backstreet’s Back album was the be-all and end-all. Purchased by parents after a lot of convincing, it was heard for hours on an end, on loop, Side A and Side B, till the reel itself was stretched and mangled and on the verge of giving up. It’s a shared memory, with each having their own version of it, but one truth remains—for millennials growing up in the ’90s, BSB was an integral part.
The ’90s were also the real MTV generation of India, when Malaika Arora, Nikhil Chinappa and Cyrus Broacha would have us hooked on to the biggest and latest international chartbusters —BSB being one of them. There are innumerable tales of waiting for Everybody to be aired on MTV to meticulously track the dance moves and learn them.
Oldie but goodie
With an age spectrum of 42 to 51, the BSB quintet were nimble on the stage, grooving without missing a beat of the choreography. While all five have aged beautifully like fine wine, it was Kevin Richardson, the oldest, who took one’s breath away with his grace. We also did not mind the dadbod that, eternal favourite, Nick Carter was sporting.
In the same vein, we concertgoers were no teenyboppers in search of a rager. We were there to relive the glory days of our teenage years and make our BSB live gig dream come true. Many viral reels and memes are still floating around on social media, describing the sedate celebration and festivities at the concert.
Years of being performers bode well for the Backstreet Boys. In the two hours of the concert, they were never once out of step with the rehearsed choreography. They had perfected the routine so well that the stage was never left empty and without one of the ‘boys’—there was a well-timed comic bit where AJ Mclean and Richardson changed into the next outfit ON stage. This also led to a couple of tighty-whities (unused) being flung into the crowd.
Perhaps one of the biggest reliefs was that the Backstreet Boys did not rely on the master and lip-sync their way through the concert. The fear and disappointment of lip-syncing artistes at concerts in the recent past have had people wary. There was a point when, if you paid attention, you could hear Brian Littrell’s voice crack, but he persevered through the gig.
Songs remain evergreen
The entire two-hour concert was a showcase that the boy band was more than just good looks. Backstreet Boys know how to sing and the catchy, easy-to-follow lyrics always ensured that no man was left behind. Whether it was The Call, As Long As You Love Me, I Want It That Way or Larger Than Life, the Backstreet Boys concert was a mass karaoke spectacle. The whole concert arena of Jio World Gardens was singing along to all of the songs—it was a sight and sound to behold.
It is nothing less than shocking that it took Backstreet Boys 13 years to come back to India. They first came to India in 2010 for a concert in Bengaluru. Having said that, India is more concert-friendly today than it ever was. And even though the Backstreet Boys are now more men than boys, their ability to enthral and entertain ensured that, for those who attended the concert, it was the best decision ever.