Show Review: The Backstreet Boys with Christian TV at The Warfield, 6/27/10

by Dakin Hardwick on June 28, 2010

The Boys, mid-step, at SF Pride earlier that afternoon.

There is something to be said about the survivors of a trend. No matter who you are, what trend you come from, it’s hard to disrespect anyone that doesn’t give up. The Backstreet Boys are one of those acts. Much like Sonic Youth, REM, Madonna, and Neil Young, The Backstreet Boys have consistently put out records since their inception. These days, of course, are the days of The Backstreet Boys on the commercial wane. Gone are they days of playing arenas and selling 1.1 million records in a single week. So, how does the sole survivor of the late 90’s boy band movement fare with their move to the small stage?

Well, before moving too far, I need to spend a few moments on the opening act. It was a singer/DJ duo named Christian TV. They played a short set that consisted primarily of non-ironic dance pop. The singer, Christian Berishaj, worked the crowd accordingly, dancing and shaking hands, and generally playing the role of non-threatening pop star. And then he played the closing number, and that’s when his true colors came out. The song was called “When She Turns 18”, and it was one of the most offensive and flat out funny songs that I have ever heard. The lyrics may have been a bit over the heads of many fans, but this song was the tale of a boy eagerly awaiting for a teenage girl to “do what she agreed to do.” Subversive brilliance!

After a brief set tear down, the stage hands began teasing the crowd from behind a curtain. They danced, adjusted symbols, and make some lewd gestures with the mike stands that were pretty funny. Then, of course, the group opened with the only song that they could open with, “Backstreet’s Back.” The foursome (Kevin Richardson left the group in 2006) came out all smiles and energy. The beginning of the show was entirely fast, driving dance numbers. I was more than surprised by the energy that these guys had put into this show.

To compensate for the smaller stage, instead of cluttering the stage with musicians, they opted to focus on the visual performance, and reduced the musical accompaniment to a DJ/Percussionist. They also had a platform, a video screen that doubled as a a spare curtain. They were also fleshed out by four female dancers, which seemed to annoy the largely female audience base.

One of the best things about this group, possibly the only reason they’ve stayed together for so long, is the fact that they don’t seem to have a front person. There were virtually no egos within the group. Everyone had equal stage time, nobody dominated the microphone, they all seemed very fair. Everybody was also allowed to be themselves. Nobody seemed to be forcing anything. I will admit that Brian Littrell seemed to be the goofiest member, but they all had their moments of silliness.

As for the set list, they did almost exactly as expected. They played all of the hits, evenly spread out, playing one new song or deep cut for every classic single. My only setlist complaint was that they medley’ed together “Quit Playing Games With My Heart” with a handful of other mid-tempo ballads.

The show wasn’t completely perfect. The sound mix was more than awful. The bass was driven far too loud and vocals were buried deep in the mix. And, despite the excellent stage show, the vocals themselves weren’t entirely up to par. Additionally, during the costume changes they used the video screens to clip one of the boys into a film trailer. I didn’t think they were particularly funny, but  I did appreciate the lo-fi quality of the clips. The only film that actually used the boys for their talent was Brian Littrell’s take on the Prince Edward character from Disney’s Enchanted. (I’m sure that I may have understood the gags a little more if I was aware of the other films, but they all seemed like generic action films.)

The 90 minute set was a silly, fun romp through a time long past in our pop musical history. It was great to reminisce, and at no point in the set did they pretend to update their sound, or re-arrange things to be more contemporary. There was no superfluous autotune, no canned Lil Wayne cameos, no growling. It was a wonderful show by a hard working group that knows exactly what they are doing.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gordon Elgart June 29, 2010 at 12:01 am

Really? R.E.M.? Sonic Youth? Neil Young? Backstreet Boys write any good songs lately? That’s not a strong comparison.

I was at this show, too, and I found the whole thing to be kind of bland. You could “see” the choreography, as it was pretty stiff from where I was standing. Unlike their hey day, the crowd up front spent more time using their cell phone cameras than anything else (like singing or dancing).I felt like there was nothing on stage but a misplaced nostalgia trip for both band and audience.

By far the best film trailer was Nick inside of The Matrix (Dude, see The Matrix already). But I’m surprised you didn’t recognize A.J. inside of Fight Club. Hardly generic action-adventure material.

Anyway, it was overall a rather plastic experience, and I’m glad I wasn’t waiting 11 years for the chance.

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Sam June 29, 2010 at 11:58 am

Pretty much agree with everything you said, although I did like the medley, I thought it all ran together well. If they had to sing all of their hits full out, it would end up being like a 3 hour concert. lol I’m absolutely glad that you brought up the sound issue because it kind of made me mad. I was way up in the balcony and it was really hard to hear them singing, but when I could they sounded great, Nick especially, he was actually the only one that was really clear for me the whole time. The place was pretty much sold out, the energy was amazing from the guys, the crowd was electric; I really thought they put on a great, entertaining, creatively thought out show so I thank them for an awesome time.

@ Gordon = he’s not comparing the music of those bands to Backstreet, he was just making a comment on their staying power, don’t freak. lol

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Dustin June 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I’ve never been a fan of the band, but I went with my girlfriend and actually enjoyed it. Something about them being in their 30s now made it more enjoyable because I think they actually seemed to understand how silly what they do is.
The dancing girls were very good and the I thought the video clips were funny. I’m not sure how the author could get the the Enchanted parody, but not the Fast and the Furious, Matrix or Fight Club… wow.

Christian TV was easily the worst pop performance I have ever seen. Hands down. The mix was a little off, the vocals sounded too loud which I can’t blame on the group, but the guy could not sing at all! I honestly thought it was a joke at first.

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Dakin June 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Too clarify, my comparison to Sonic Youth, et al, was in terms of career path. All of those acts have managed to consistently put out material & tour throughout their entire career.

And, in retrospect, I should have noticed that they were spoofing Fight Club. Edward Norton just makes far too many movies, and the sound issues were still in place during the film clips, so I really couldn’t understand the dialogue. And not a single person has made a convincing argument for seeing The Matrix, not even Prince.

But, I still stand my review. It was a very good show by a group that truly understands how to function as entertainers.

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jennifer July 6, 2010 at 4:54 pm

i was at the vegas show, and it was great. i have been a fan for 17 years and they never get old or boring, the new album is really good!! i cant wait for the next 17 years!!

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Tara August 14, 2010 at 11:27 pm

In reply to Dustin- You obviously have no idea what good music is, BSB sucks and they were lucky to get Christian as an opening act. His voice is original and his songs are so catchy. I have known Christian since we were in elementary school, he is a great kid who has done nothing but bust his butt for years to get to the big time. Since I have known him so long you may say I am biased but make no mistake I actually have issues that make it hard for me to want to like his music. As much as I try to not like his music, I can’t. I find myself playing it at the gym and in my car non stop. Don’t judge him on just one performance, give him a break. He just made it big and I am sure he will get better with his stage persona in time.

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