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Review and photos by Andy Argyrakis"Oh my God we're back again" kicked off the first verse to the Backstreet Boys' encore "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" during a packed FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island performance, and considering all five guys are completely reunited following several years as a foursome, it was just as electrifying as it was exclamatory. Though business was never bad for Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough, having Kevin Richardson back in the fold paints the most complete picture of the famed vocal group possible, which surely contributes to the year long "In A World Like This" tour being its biggest in a decade.
With the breathtaking Chicago skyline in the background, the boys (now 30 to 40-something men) more than made up for lost time across two hours adorned by state of the art video walls and at least a few racks of outfit changes. Currently celebrating 21 years together, the 130 million album sellers recalled it all in ultra-slick form, from '90s mainstays "The Call," "All I Have To Give" and "As Long As You Love Me," through self-penned, independently recorded tunes "Permanent Stain" and "Show 'Em (What You're Made Of)."
A midpoint acoustic set found the fellas ditching the special effects for a more natural take on tunes past and present like "10,000 Promises," "Madeleine" and "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)." Were they the most pitch perfect vocalists in this sort of setting? Absolutely not, but the ladies (including the ecstatic handful allowed on stage) nonetheless went crazy, while the decision to strip back the typically glossy production sheen framed the songs in a fresh light.
The show truly reached an apex when the guys returned to the dance floor for "The One," swooned through the spine-chilling "Shape Of My Heart" and directed the everlasting school girl sing-a-long "I Want It That Way." Come the aforementioned "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and the finale "Larger Than Life," the Backstreet Boys rocked more than ever before, once again suggesting that even a generation beyond MTV's "Total Request Live" heyday, these harmony heavy singers have staying power.
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