Give the crop of ’90s-era boy bands some credit, they know they can’t last forever in their original form.
Monday night at the Bank of America Pavilion Backstreet Boys — now back to full force fox five power with the return of Kevin Richardson — performed with an enthusiasm that was too joyous to be disingenuous, making it clear that after 20 years they remain happy together.
It was a night of toothy grins, fleet footwork, and impassioned “hey girl” pop pleas that had the largely female crowd ecstatically executing its part of the choreography with sustained, vociferous screaming, singing along, and boogie-ing in the aisles.
But it was also clear that when it came time to sit down for a quieter, acoustic segment Richardson, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, and A.J. McLean were happy for the breather. (As were the 30 or so fans who were seated behind them on their multi-level stage.)
Dorough only half-joked that the reason for the break was that they’ve realized that someday they won’t be able to “shake what our mamas gave us” so they had to begin the transition now.
They then put the “band” in boy band by busting out instruments — guitar for Littrell and Carter, bass for Dorough, keyboards for Richardson, and percussion for McLean — for a handful of tunes including “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” and “Madeleine,” which featured some of the best vocalizing of the night. (Curiously, for much of the rest of the set the group performed with live-sounding backing tracks, not actual musicians.)
But as long as they’ve got what their mamas gave them, the shaking is in no danger of disappearing. The show was mostly given over to synchronized steps, arm waves, and hip thrusts that have not appeared to lose any of their snap, as they bopped through a catalog that veers from the sublime (the a cappella open of “Safest Place to Hide” into “10,000 Promises”) to the buoyant (“I Want It That Way”) to the catchy dance jams (“Larger Than Life,” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”) to the merely innocuous (a lot of the rest of it).
A few new tunes were greeted with less enthusiasm, but the breezy title track of their recent release “In a World Like This” fared well alongside its older brethren.