How lovely to see Backstreet Boys back once again and performing on our tellyboxes and wireless radios. As seven of you may recall, I worked with BSB from 1996, when they were only truly famous in rural parts of Germany, to 2001 when they walked the Earth like colossi with cheeky grins, epic dance moves and singles that could be hummed by postmen, milkmen and people who repaired fax machines.
Backstreet were extremely hard-working young men, especially in the early days when their careers depended on long hours on tour buses followed by energetic performances and media obligations followed by long hours on tour buses (repeat to fade)…….
They were also very distinct personalities - Kevin, the eldest and most serious of the group; Nick and Brian, the younger, jokey, playful faction; A.J., who always seemed more mature and the one “most-likely-to-end-up-in-trouble” as his high school yearbook might say; and Howie D who was always disarmingly sweet and kind to everyone he met, almost as if he was so surprised to be in a pop group that he worried that if he said one bad word to anyone, the dream would disappear like a bubble in a ceiling fan.
I did three UK tours with the Boys and over the course of each one, their differences began to become more apparent. Tour One - theatre shows at venues such as the Newcastle City Hall, Bradford St George’s and the Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Everyone shared one dressing room, spirits were high and pre-show bonding prayers were loud and celebratory.
Tour Two - first arena shows, which, as everyone in music knows, means working in giant metal sheds like the NEC in Birmingham and Glasgow’s SECC. These places were large enough for each band member to have a separate dressing room and yet for most of the dates they would all pile into just one or two - occasionally someone like AJ would go to their own space but return soon after to join the party.
By Tour Three, each Boy’s dressing room had very much become their own mini-fiefdoms, decorated according to needs. Nick’s and Brian’s were designed around basketball with hoops fitted. Kevin’s was a place of prayer and solitude. AJ’s was very dark and smelt of funny cigarettes and disappointment. And Howie D? His room was sparsely furnished and just had lots of flowers. Sweet Boy.