If you really want to know the whole story, we need to start with Celine Dion.
Time was, the Las Vegas strip was a well-oiled funhouse where performers’ careers slinked off to die. Then, in 2003—in the prime of her career—Dion booked a residency at the Colosseum. A diva headlining a grody Vegas casino? It was the musical equivalent of Cady Heron joining the Mathletes: social suicide.
Except it wasn’t. By the end of her first residency’s run nearly five years later, Dion had raked in close to $400 million. (Moral of the story? Join the Mathletes.) The move proved great for Celine, better for the rest of us. Her success led to a Blitzkrieg of residencies from some of the world’s biggest entertainers, including (but not limited to) Elton John, Bette Midler, Cher, Britney Spears, The Who, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, etc. etc. etc. blah blah blah bands bands bands but oh wait let’s not forget the most important one: The Backstreet Boys.
In 2016, the Backstreet Boys announced their plans for an 18-night residency in Las Vegas. If you’re all, “Talk about a band that’s desperate to revive its career,” here are some important things to get out of the way:
First, there is no career to “revive.” The Backstreet Boys have been making albums, performing live, and touring since 1993. They have seen each other through eight studio albums, 13 tours, Kevin leaving the group (2006), Kevin returning to the group (2011), and now a stint in Vegas. You might even say they were Never Gone.
Second, with 130 million albums sold worldwide, they are the best-selling boy band of all time. For those who still argue that *NSYNC is the better band, here’s proof that you’re on the wrong side of both history and math.
Third, a band’s career is only dead when its fans disappear. BSB has kept those of us who’ve been there from the beginning in their magical boybandy thrall with meet-and-greets and five-day cruises, but they’ve become freakishly relevant to new fans, too. Perhaps you heard them on the radio like, today without even realizing it (they collabed with Florida Georgia Line on “God, Your Mama, and Me”). In May of this year, they performed at Wango Tango alongside Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. Wango Tango! For reference, the last time they played Wango Tango was in 2001. Now that’s what I call #KTBSPA (Keeping The Backstreet Pride Alive for the uninitiated).
All of this to say, their Backstreet Boys: Larger than Life Vegas residency is a natural extension of their already-illustrious career. Should you be on the fence about going, here is the nudge you need: Pack the car. Make the drive. Because even if there’s no official medical link between intense nostalgia and the release of dopamine in your brain, I can tell you first hand that runners are dumb and BSB fans have it made because seeing the earliest objects of your affection live is a high.
Are they older now? Yes. Do they still have it? Uh, yes. As the lights dim in the Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood, clips from the entirety of BSB’s 24-year career begin to play. And it all comes rushing back: How sweet it felt when your parents finally buckled and bought you Backstreet Boys—your first CD; The feelings you caught for Nick after watching the video for “As Long As You Love Me”; The life of wedded bliss you imagined with Kevin upon hearing him break free of the background track for a solo in “I Want It That Way.” The video is kind of like a digital Hype Man; by the time it’s over, the crowd has already lost its mind with anticipation. When the boys hit the stage in matchy-but-not Destiny’s Child-style outfits, the first words of “Larger Than Life” escaping their beautiful lips, the screaming has reached a fever pitch.
Thus is the power of shared reminiscence. And it’s infectious. There was singing. And jumping. And dancing. And God-awful communal clapping that could turn even the most staunch non-communal-clapper (me) into a balls-to-the-wall, hands-over-head communal clapper. Even forlorn Sig O’s eventually abandoned whatever shred of dignity they had left, succumbing to the poppy hooks of “The Call,” “Everybody,” and even ballads like “Incomplete.” The show is 100-minutes of pure unadulterated joy, and I don’t know one person who couldn’t use more of that.
July 1 was supposed to be the final show in BSB’s residency. But miracles are real, and fifteen more dates have been added (November 8, 10, 11, 15, 17 and 18; January 31; and February 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 14, 16 and 17).
As Celine might say, that’s the power of love.