- The Washington Times - Monday, November 13, 2000

What a difference a few years make.

'N Sync's sound is virtually unchanged, the shrills of thousands of screaming girls are still, well, as ear-numbing as ever and the band proved once again Saturday why it is playing to sellout crowds across the country.

But the concert Saturday night at MCI Center showed that a few years in the spotlight can definitely change a person. The 'N Sync guys didn't appear to be the innocent boys they professed to be a few years back.

When 'N Sync first came to town, the band's approach and mannerisms were a little more laid-back. The band members, Justin Timberlake, J.C. Chasez, Joey Fatone Jr., Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick, were more reserved maybe not quite used to the screams and attention they were being given.

'N Sync now is very much in tune with its success and clearly going to take this success for all it can and for as long as it lasts. But it's all in good fun and entertainment not art.

The band's formula works for the drones of girls who want to paint "I Love Justin Timberlake" on their backs in glitter sticks or make puffy-paint posters reading "'N Sync rocks" to hang from the balcony of the MCI Center.

While many parents were caught up in election-week havoc, thousands of teen-age girls were adorning themselves Saturday in leather pants, halter tops and tons of body glitter to see their favorite band.

While standing in line outside, teens could be heard comparing their seating arrangements or sharing their latest 'N Sync facts while parents and guardians attempted to be as interested as the young people were.

As audience members trickled in to find their seats, four artists and groups opened for 'N Sync. Ron Irizarry was the first. He played three songs to backing tracks and simply strummed his guitar. Although not a show-stopper, Mr. Irizarry received some shrieking screams and held the attention of the audience for a few moments with his opener, "Angel Boy."

But all hope was lost when he broke into a loud, contrite song "Young and Free," in which he sang a few verses, then repeated the song title about 50 times. It got annoying.

Second up was Meredith Edwards, who will have an album hitting the airwaves in a few months and who belted out a few new country tunes. She sang smoothly as she introduced her first single, "A Rose Is a Rose." The song was lovely, although her stage presence was, well, acquired. Miss Edwards wasn't what one would expect to hear at a pop music concert, but her type of music worked.

Dream, a girl group that has a popular song, "He Loves You, Not," was very energetic. Dream's sound was much like that of other groups, but the young women's modellike looks and powerful voices give them a little bit of an edge. They are, by every sense, formula pop. But they easily caught the attention of my 10-year-old, who immediately turned to me and said, with a big smile on his face, "Mom, I really like them."

Soul Decision, the only group with full-band backing besides 'N Sync, proved to be quite entertaining. Its rendition of Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" was right on and got us older listeners involved in a way most teeny-bopper concerts can only dream of. Soul Decision's music was tight, somewhat original and fun listening.

But, as one can guess, most concertgoers only listen to these openers with halfhearted ears. Let's face it. They are waiting for the real thing.

'N Sync's members, who range in age from late teens to late 20s, not only are easy on the eyes, but have moves that at times seem to defy the laws of gravity. Combine that with their fairly tight harmonies, strong stage presence and an array of music that keeps the feet moving at a steady rate, and it's no wonder that girls from as young as 5 cry over the fabulous five.

'N Sync definitely plays to the crowd. It mixes songs from its new album, "No Strings Attached" with those from its previous, self-titled album. The band seems to hold strong to its previous fame from songs such as "Tearin' Up My Heart" and "Want You Back" and offers new tunes such as "Bye Bye Bye" and "Space Cowboy."

But several of the songs, while executed with originality, don't vary from the canned, pop sound for which most boy bands are becoming known. 'N Sync is doing this, instead of venturing out and finding a way to set itself apart from, say, the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees and Take 5. While harmony is nice, it can be overdone.

But this is purely an adult perspective. This performance wasn't by any means boring. It was sheer, mindless entertainment.

While the teen set was enthralled, parents were simply thrilled to have their children occupied for four hours without having to worry about them. The concert was time well spent.

I mean really, with 'N Sync tickets worth three times their weight in gold, many parents, grandparents and adult friends were heroes for a few hours because they had achieved the impossible landing a few of the tickets. (Scalpers were selling tickets for more than $115 at the door.)

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