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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisThe idea of pairing the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys may be a no brainer for boy band fans, but it's also a sure fire cure for an economy-effected concert season to pack arenas (mainly with screaming girls). Though it seems only natural this double billing would've happened much sooner, its roots only date back to a surprise appearance by the Backstreet Boys during a New Kids show in 2010, which inspired a collaborative mini-set at 2011's American Music Awards.
Similar to that broadcast, this newly chastened NKOTBSB super group shared the stage some of the night (and switched frequently between individual segments) on opening night of a cross country tour at suburban Chicagoland's Allstate Arena. Along the way, there were plenty of lip smacking hits from both sides, backed by amplified harmonies, slickly choreographed dance steps, even more costume changes and one of this year's most grandiose presentations (complete with the obligatory pyro, catwalk and pair of elevating spaceship-like risers).
Could all nine guys still sing? Some more than others, but when everybody blended together (along with tens of thousands of screaming girls) it sounded like a pretty fun party. In fact, mass hysteria ensued from the opening club throwdowns of "The One" and "Summertime," with the momentum only building come the throbbing "The Call" and "Dirty Dancing." Rather than relying on tracks or samples, both vocal groups benefited from live backing bands, which added a funkier flavoring to oldies but goodies like "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" and "Larger Than Life."
There were also plenty of slow songs in the set list, which in the case of the New Kids, recalled the blue-eyed soul gleaned from the Motown or Philadelphia scenes. The Backstreet ballads were indistinguishable from one another in comparison, but nonetheless the source of equally fervent sing-a-longs. Considering several cuts from both collectives were performed at the b-stage towards the back of the venue (along with a pair of brave forays into the audience), it ensured no seat was a bad one and brought everyone closer to the action.
While nostalgia served as a main component to the night, it wasn't the exclusive reason fans showed up in droves. Both groups demonstrated their staying power on the charts individually and also with the thumping new collaboration "Don't Turn Out the Lights." Add in the double-decker finale of "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Hangin' Tough" merged with Queen's "We Will Rock You," and the double boy band onslaught didn't just entertain, but appears to be one of this summer's unstoppable pop soirees.
NKOTBSB returns for two sold out shows at the United Center on Friday, June 17 and Saturday, June 18 with additional details at www.ticketmaster.com.
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