- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The Backstreet Boys should change the name of their summer concert tour from “Never Gone” to “The Afterglow.”

That glow — the halo that shimmers on after a teen idol mega-group has faded — was what the crowd at Nissan Pavilion was looking for Saturday night, and the quintet delivered.

Group members Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson, Howie Dorough and A.J. McLean capitalized on old fans’ nostalgia by performing a string of hits from previous albums and throwing a few songs from their new CD, also titled “Never Gone,” into the mix.

Not that they did a bad job. To the Boys’ credit, they’ve still got it. The band’s smooth harmonies were there: the effortless choreographed dance moves, the uncanny rapport with the crowd.But for a tour promoting a new CD, there were few surprises.

The few new songs that the Boys incorporated into the set failed to spark a response from a crowd that’s moved on from bubble gum pop. When the group asked the audience to sing along to “Climbing the Walls,” an up-tempo ballad from their new album, they drew blank stares. But when they launched into “I Want it That Way,” the smash from 1999’s “Millennium,” the audience practically drowned them out.

It was obvious, even before the show began, that nearly all the fans had come for old-time’s sake. The amphitheater was packed, but the girls weren’t screaming or swooning. The face paint and top-to-toe Backstreet apparel that was de rigueur at previous shows was replaced by today’s high school couture — tube tops, short skirts and tight jeans.

Parents were hard to come by, as were children younger than 13. The relatively demure crowd bopped their heads to old classics, shooting each other knowing glances whenever a familiar chord would sound. Most were old Backstreet fans checking up on the heartthrobs who had adorned their walls years ago.

The Boys were smart and humble enough to acknowledge that the audience at Saturday’s show hadn’t come to hear new hits like “Incomplete” and “Just Want You to Know.” They mostly steered clear of their new material, which is mainly a “lite” version of the old stuff, complete with sugar-coated harmonies and painfully cliched lyrics. They also milked the memories with film montages from their glory days, back when the band’s tour bus was mobbed with fans and dolled-up heartthrobs danced in glossy music videos. All well and good, except that five years have elapsed since the group’s last successful album, and they’re still stuck on the same routine.

The pyrotechnics and matching outfits were toned down, but in the end the show consisted of five grown men dancing on stage for a bunch of high-school girls. Considering that the oldest “Boy,” Kevin Richardson, is now 33, the River Dance footwork and choreographed formations looked somewhat ridiculous.

The quintet was at its best during “As Long as You Love Me,” a sweet, G-rated hit from their self-titled debut album. Thankfully, they played down the dancing and gimmicks, and let their voices take over. There’s no denying it — the Boys, especially Mr. McLean, do know how to belt.

To their credit, the Backstreet Boys pulled off what could have been an utter embarrassment with style and professionalism. They were polished and for the most part looked happy to be performing. But they failed to draw old fans into their new material.And since their new album isn’t strong enough to attract a new base, future success remains in doubt.

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