26 years since being introduced to the world at the height of the pre-millennium boyband fame, the Backstreet Boys prove why they are better than before at the Manila stop of their DNA World Tour.
The world is no stranger to performers setting on a comeback tour, often on a global scale to peddle whatever their new sound or passion project is. We cannot resist the romance of nostalgia, indulging in a throwback every chance we get. It doesn’t help that since this is the music of our formative years, it becomes a precursor to our tastes moving forward, education our choices, and becoming a rigor for that constant argument that “they never make music the way they used to.”
Arguable as it may stand to be, the sound isn’t just the way it was—lyrics don’t hit like a torpedo during our impressionable, probably emotionally misinformed selves; and the rhythm isn’t as commanding, where it once willed your bodies to submission, consuming you even when you didn’t fully get the context. A score to the soundtrack of our lives, effectively essaying emotions when words and more so actions are not enough, this is perhaps why we hold so much value to the sound of our youth. So, when the figures who populated our fandom of yore come together in what can be described as a veritable prime of our lives, we go absolutely nuts.
No longer disembodied voices blaring from our Walkmans or CD players, or still images on stacks of magazines and torn pages decorating our bedroom walls, they become an almost-within-reach reality, connecting what was ideally a precious past with the storied present. Finally, they’re real. Well, sort of.
While it is fairly easy to relegate these reunions as a fragment of a time gone by, one cannot deny the gravity that it has, pulling you in closer and closer, unpacking all your adult baggage and revealing you to be a buoyant young’un once again. Truth be told, you don’t need to be a rabid, obsessed, and a zealot of a fan to appreciate concerts of these sort, such as the Backstreet Boys with their DNA World Tour.
26 years since being introduced to the world as Backstreet Boys, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell are back alright, in tip-top fighting form, commanding the stage with as much charm, consistency, and charge as they had at the height of their boyband fame in the 90s and the awning of the new millennium. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the past 26 years, and we cannot wait to be back again soon,” says a brimming with gratitude AJ, as the band readied themselves for the next set of their Manila stop at the Mall of Asia Arena. “You guys are loud and you might be the loudest one yet.”
Powering through a 33-song set list (including encores), with much memory and muscle as it was years back, the DNA World Tour was a fitting mix of the old, the now, and maybe even the future of the Backstreet Boys. Their voices were still calm and crystal, proving that despite the frills of the boyband template, they are very, very able vocalists—which really should be the standard for anyone who even attempts what they have amassed in years. One of the best boybands of our time, the Backstreet Boys took us on a time travel back and forth, dishing out song after song from their robust discography such as Backstreet Boys, Backstreet’s Back, Millennium, Black & Blue, Never Gone, This Is Us, In A World Like This, and their most recent effort, DNA.
As if thrusting us back to the raves of the era, a dazzling light show punctured through their music, providing a multi-sensory experience of sight and sound. To borrow from one of their sacred songs, it was truly larger than life, with the Mall of Asia Arena being packed to the rafters with fans and friends, singing and dancing to their heart’s content to memorable hits such as The Call (my personal favorite), Get Down, Show Me The Meaning Of Being Lonely, Incomplete, Shape Of My Heart, Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), As Long As You Love Me, I’ll Never Break Your Heart, Everybody, All I Have To Give (they even did the signature hat dance break!) , I Want It That Way, and yes, Larger Than Life.
Wherever one stood on the barometer of fanaticism, it was humanly impossible to not sing, dance, and scream, sometimes all at once. In as much as it was a party, where everyone got to live out their youth once more, it was a clear reminder that no matter how far along we are in life, music will always be that anchor that moors us to a special time in our lives. The same can be said to AJ, Kevin, Nick, Brian, and Howie when it comes to their bond. Despite the years, the in-betweens, and the hiatus, the fact of the matter is, they are brothers brought together by music. “We are a family,” they all agreed at one point on stage as they introduced their song, No Place. “I’ve been all around the world, done all there is to do, But you’ll always be the home I wanna come home to,” they sang interspersed with the video featuring their families and loved ones.
Right then and there, with all of their life on the stage of their DNA World Tour in Manila, the Backstreet Boys proved not only why they are one of the best of our generation, but also why they are better than ever. Yes, they are way more than back alright.