Backstreet Boys II: Playing Games

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Date: Mar 18, 2001
Source: Sonicnet
Submitted By: Sol Carter Thorpedo

Kevin, A.J. and Howie talk about keeping it fresh for their fans.

It can't be easy being Backstreet Boys these days. Their latest album, Black & Blue, debuted at #1 and sold 1.6 million copies in its first week. Yet somehow, it was still considered a disappointment by those bent on comparing the Boys to labelmates 'NSYNC.

Then the Backstreeters kicked off their biggest tour yet — one that's so expensive, the band says it won't make a dime on the road — and endured a series of technical gaffes on their official opening night. That's enough to put even the world's most boisterous boy band in a funk.

Instead, they've kept on delivering their smooth R&B-flavored pop and dance numbers with vigor and good cheer. As Backstreet Boys Kevin Richardson, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough told MTV News' John Norris the day after their star-crossed January 22nd opening show, they're still setting sales records, connecting with the fans and loving what they do. Plus, they've left the groin-busting acrobatic tricks of the last tour behind. So what's not to like?

(To read our interview with Backstreet Boys Brian Littrell and Nick Carter, click here.)

MTV News' John Norris:: It's a fine Backstreet tradition that the first night of the tour is always great. But on the second night, anything that can go wrong...

Howie Dorough: ...Normally does.

A.J. McLean: Always does.

Kevin Richardson: Seems that way, yeah.

Norris: Last night was the tour's official opening night, but it was really your second show. So there were a few mishaps?

Richardson: We were having some technical problems with, lifts and trap doors not closing and not going up when they were supposed to. Certain things got stuck and didn't happen when they were supposed to — like surprises for the audience, which I'm not going to tell you about.

McLean: We got put in some weird predicaments. Our security was having an aneurysm because we were a lot closer to the audience than we were supposed to be.

Norris: At one point the fans were really close to you. Is it not supposed to be like that?

McLean: No.

Richardson: It was great.

McLean: Well, it was, but not in the way it happened. We were supposed to stay in our first position, where we ended up, and we ended up going down toward the floor, which was kind of bad.

We put a lot of money into the production - a little bit too much money -- Howie

Dorough: It was cool, though.

Richardson: The audience really enjoyed it.

Dorough: They got a special thrill out of it.

Norris: The stage for the Millennium show was round. How different is playing in the round versus the traditional set-up, with the stage at the end?

Dorough: It's not as intimate, unfortunately, on the end stage. In the round, there were no bad seats in the whole auditorium or stadium. I don't think there are many bad seats [with the new set-up] either, because the stage is so big. We do some special things that give us a chance to see a lot more of the audience, without giving it away. Being on the end stage is a little bit less intimate, but it's definitely a bigger production.

McLean: It's also easier for us, though. After running the circle the entire night, it gets tiresome. It's a lot more work; you have to cover more ground. On this stage, we have us five, our 10 dancers and a seven-piece band. Everything is filled up enough so there's no dead spots or gaps on the stage.

Dorough: They see us all together, at once.

Norris: It feels like a bigger show. Is it?

Richardson: Oh yeah. We have 29 trucks. We would have had 30, but we took some elements out, to save for when we do stadiums in the summer. So, yeah, it's bigger. The stage is really huge.

McLean: It's almost 200 feet wide.

Richardson: It overlaps the seats on each side of the arena. That's really cool, because we get to run right up in the audience. And we've added a huge video element to the show.

Dorough: We put a lot of money into the production — a little bit too much money. We're not making money on this tour. It's all good, though.

Norris: Is it safe to say this is your most expensive tour yet?

McLean: If you combine all of our tours and then triple it, you might get close.

Richardson: It was money well-spent. It's a beautiful show and the audience is going to get their money's worth and have a great time. That's what's most important. Right, fellas?

Dorough: I was going to say that, but you didn't give me a chance to finish.

Norris: You guys have been doing this for eight years now. Is it tough to get yourself pumped up for yet another tour, or is it always different?

McLean: It's always different, because it's a different album, it's a different production. We've all changed — whether it's looks, or getting older or just maturing as a group. We're constantly trying to reinvent ourselves. We've definitely done our tours in perfect stages, going from a rinky-dink stage with a little catwalk and a real thin Backstreet Boys logo on the back wall, to where we are today. We've been trying to continuously make it better and just give our fans a real incredible show.

Richardson: It's challenging to come up with different ideas and to make it exciting and new and fresh for us and for the audience.

Norris: Was pulling out even more stops this time an important concern, or did you consider doing something more scaled-back?

Richardson: Down the road, we want to do more scaled-back stuff. If we get the opportunity with the next album, it would be cool to do theaters again. We've talked about doing that — just doing real small, acoustic-vibe stuff.

Dorough: We try to outdo ourselves each tour, but where exactly can you go? Especially with the last time being in the round and us flying and everything. It was like, "How can we top ourselves this time?" I don't know if we've topped it per se, but we've got a good show that we feel really comfortable with. But, like Kevin said, I think we would feel just as comfortable with a show that's more intimate.

Richardson: With this tour, because we're planning on doing stadiums in the summer, we didn't want to have to bring in a brand-new stage later. And when you play stadiums, if you're on something small, you feel like an ant. So we wanted to go with something big. And this light show that we've got now — we've got the best in the business, Peter Morris, doing our lighting. He's done Michael [Jackson]. He's done everybody.

Dorough: This stage is unbelievable; it's huge. It's more for stadiums than it is for arenas. In the arenas, it's like, "Wow!" We're really up close. Everyone can see us, totally.

Norris: Without giving too much away, there's no flying this time. Can we safely say that?

Richardson: Thank God we don't have to put those harnesses on. It took us an hour just to get those things on. Those were hard on the old groin area.

McLean: That was real bad.

Norris: But there are some surprises?

McLean: Yeah, we have some pretty nifty gadgets on this tour.

Richardson: It's fun to come up with new, exciting things for your audience. They want to see something different; they want to see something exciting.

Norris: There's a point where the fans kind of get to go backstage with you guys, in a sense.

Richardson: Yeah, yeah.

McLean: Thus is probably one of the most dangerous stages for us, because of all the different entrances and exits and all the special things that we have on stage. If one of us is really in the zone — focusing on singing to that fan — and makes a wrong move, we'll fall in a hole somewhere.

We have to think globally. We are a world-renowned group. —A.J.

Dorough: Which has happened already.

McLean: Which has happened to Howie, during dress rehearsal. And it happened to Kevin twice. No one got hurt, though.

Norris: There's a video opening that involves a kind of cosmic happening...

McLean: Giant potatoes hitting the earth.

Richardson: Originally, we thought we'd have a storyline throughout the entire show, and we would begin with the earth almost being destroyed. Then we were going to start bringing things back to life, and at the end of the show it would be all glorious and happy again. So at the beginning of the show, you're experiencing this destruction. But the rest of the storyline wasn't working, so now it's just a cool intro. The earth cracks open, we come up out of it and — boom! — here we are.

Norris: You guys start with "Everyone" and "Larger than Life" (RealAudio excerpt), which are real fan-dedicated tracks. Was it important to start that way?

Richardson: When we were writing and recording "Everyone," we were like, "This would be a great opener for the tour."

McLean: And it's perfect to be followed up by "Larger Than Life," because that was the same exact thing.

Norris: This show features some of the most intense dancing we've seen in any of your shows.

Richardson: The choreography may be more challenging, but I don't think we're dancing more than we have in the past.

McLean: There are more up-tempo songs in this show than we've had in probably any of our tours.

Norris: Are you gratified with the response to the album, despite the media-inspired horse race with 'NSYNC's record?

McLean: Very. We went through a phase where we got blinded by the world factor and the global release of the previous album. With Black & Blue, we kept focusing on the U.S. and, "If we don't sell this many million records, it's not this, that and the other." But we have to think globally. We are a world-renowned group, and we've got fans as far away as the Far East, as well as in the U.S. But we can't sit back and focus on just here. And that first week's sales were very gratifying to us. We beat ourselves.

Dorough: We beat our record from last year and we created a couple new records. I was told we were the first artists to have two albums in a row go platinum the first week.

Richardson: Records are nice, but as long as we're selling albums and tickets, that's what's great.

Dorough: And records were meant to be broken.

Norris: Some writers have asked, "Can they reclaim the pop crown?" Do you pay attention to that hype?

Richardson: I don't pay attention to it.

McLean: We just want to keep on doing what we're doing. Obviously, people really enjoy it, and we love doing it.

Richardson: There is no crown.

Dorough: Never knew we had it, never knew we lost it. [laughs]

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