Big Kids Discover Backstreet

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Date: Nov 03, 2099
Source: Des Moines Register
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Nov. 2, 1999 Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa.

The first time Shelly McDonald, 31 ever stood in line for concert tickets was in August, to buy three seats to the Backstreet Boys concert tonight in Iowa City.

All 765,000 tickets to the mega-selling pop quintet's 11-week "Into The Millennium Tour" sold within hours. Tickets were gone in record time no just in Iowa City but for every date on their 39-city trek around North America.

It was a $30 million coup for the Boys, and an emotionally charged morning for the ecstatic, squealing preteen and teen-age girls surrounding McDonald, of Des Moines, and her friend at Younkers' Ticketmaster outlet in Merle Hay Mall.

In the world of Backstreet Boys fandom, McDonald can often feel like the odd adult out.

"There's a stereotype that it is a young girls' band," she said.

Tena Kellar, assistant manager of Sam Goody in Valley West Mall, said some of her adult customers are quick to qualify their purchase of a Backstreet Boys CD.

"Every time they come in and buy one, they say it's for somebody else," she said.

But McDonald and other adult fans are determined to shatter the myth that fluctuating hormones are a prerequisite for appreciating the slickly produced, sweetly harmonized pop the Backstreet Boys have doled out on their 1997 debut album and this year's chart-topping "Millennium."

"Witness Terry Wilhelm, 48, an executive vice president for Liberty Bank in West Des Moines and an avid Backstreet Boys fan for the past year.

"I've always had an interest in well-produced bands, and of course, the Backstreet Boys are one of the best," Wilhelm said. Involved in the music business as a booking agent early in his career, he was a fan of brass-fueled funk in the '60s and '70s, groups like Tower of Power. His concert-going in recent years has been dominated by acts of the same era - Kansas, Styx, the Steve Miller Band.

So when Wilhelm announced to his son, Justin, at the kitchen table that he intended to buy a Backstreet Boys CD, the 17-year-old responded with shock.

"He kind of rolled his eyes, like 'You've got to be kidding,' " Wilhelm said. "He didn't think it was appropriate for somebody of my age to be listening to the Backstreet Boys."

Three days later Wilhelm discovered that his son already owned the CD.

Wilhelm referred to the Boys (Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, A.J. McLean and Kevin Richardson) as "fantastic musicians," and he said their "songs are all very well-written" and their viceos are "very well choreographed." He's not surprised that such well executed music could appeal to a wide audience, to baby boomers as well as the newest generation. Wilhelm holds his head high as he goes through his day humming tunes like "I Want It That Way" and "Larger Than Life."

"If I do get any opposition (from people), its because of what's set in their minds already," he said.

Does he have a favorite song? Speaking on a cell phone from his parked car, Wilhelm flipped through a pile of CDs. Pausing to don his eyeglasses, he scanned the song titled on the back of the "Millennium" hewel case, deciding on the "The Perfect Fan," the Boys' maternal tribute.

Wilhelm has even turned his peers on to his favorite group.

Joe Gardner, second vice president for individual insurance at the Principal Financial Group, became a Backstreet Boys convert one weekend when Wilhelm brought his CDs aboard Gardner's sailboat at Lake Red Rock near pella. Describing himself as "more than adult," Gardner, 56, was a music major in college and experienced firsthand the initial wave of rock'n'roll (Little Richard, Fats Domino, Elvis Presley) as a teen-ager.

"Every single on of them is an incredible musician," Gardner said of the Boys. He went on to praise the group's flawless arrangements, mixing, and production.

Wilhelm even sketched the Boys' background, acknowledging that the group was "man-made." A savvy Florida businessman held auditions to assemble the five best young men for the job, then target-marketed them to conquer the pop world.

"They're. not a band that started in a basement and just grew from there," Wilhelm said.

"It's only logical that business executives can appreciate the Backstreet Boys' catchy beats and soaring harmonies, and also respect that the group represents in terms of their world: a well-oiled firm where the managers, as much as the employees, have had a hand in the success.

The Backstreet Boys, after all, are big business.

But McDonald and two of her friends will be thinking about music, not business, when they hear the Boys live tonight in Iowa City.

"Its energetic music," she said. "It's a lot of fun to listen to, dance t." Sex appeal still figures into the equation for McDonald and her friends.

Wilhelm won't be in Iowa City tonight.

"I'm a little concerned about going to a Backstreet Boys concert because all I'll hear is a bunch of screaming," Wilhelm said. That's all he heard in the late '80s, when he took Justin to a New Kids on the Block concert at Hilton Coliseum in Ames,

Gardner won't be in Iowa City either, but he is expanding his contemporary pop horizons.

"Because of the Backstreet Boys, I'm now interested in 'N Sync."

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