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Some now-grown Las Vegas fans relive their Backstreet Boys fandom

Updated February 24, 2017 - 7:41 pm

It’s not that they’re so old now. It’s just that they — and even more, their fans — were really young back then.

But a lot of life happened for Backstreet girls since the Backstreet Boys played the MGM Grand Garden arena in 1998 and 1999. And it was over so quickly; the Backstreet Boys had burned themselves out by the quintet’s last arena show in late 2001, just 3½ years later.

To prep for Wednesday’s debut of Backstreet’s “Larger Than Life” show at Planet Hollywood Resort, we go back in time to reconstruct their Las Vegas history with the help of three now-grown fans who saw them at the MGM Grand Garden: Tiffany Mondell, who oversees “X Burlesque” for Stabile Productions; Lisa Marie Smith, singing star of “Pin-Up” and, more recently, of “Baz — Star-Crossed Love,” and Brittany Holmes McCoy, resource development director for the nonprofit Communities in Schools.

The first time: Aug. 7, 1998

What the R-J said: The quintet went through its dancing, posing paces with an energetic professionalism, hitting every carefully choreographed mark. But it almost seemed like they were sent down from central casting. A lack of authenticity pervaded the entire show, from the scripted shtick to the doubtfully live vocals during the dance routines.

Prescient quote from press conference: “We want really long-term careers in this business. We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We feel like as long as we’re putting out good music we can be around for a long time.” — Howie D (Dorough).

Modernrockers who won’t be playing Planet Hollywood next week, listened to by cooler/olderkids in 1998: Marcy Playground (“Sex and Candy”), Fastball (“The Way”), Semisonic (“Closing Time”).

Smith: “I was a teenage heartthrob obsessor. It was my prime preteen and early teenage years. They were my entire pop life growing up.

“My mom went with me the first time. She took me and my middle-school best friend and my little brother. My dad actually went the second two times. To this day, he still talks about how much fun he had. It was a really cool family bonding.”


“Into the Millenium” tour: Oct. 15, 1999

What the R-J said: Saturday’s concert was light-years better than the teen idols’ visit there a year ago, in terms of both staging and entertainment value. The giant in-the-round stage is the only way to play a sports arena. Working in the round seemed to force the Boys to be more animated, though much of the show still involved the changing of clothes — as many times as Cher, it started to seem.

Mondell: “We were really ’NSync fans, but I still liked Backstreet enough to go. I just think when you’re in middle school you have to pick a team. But I just always liked them both. I never stopped listening to either one of them.

“I was friends with Alice Cooper’s daughter and his manager took us to the show. We were in the very front, and that was the one with the circle stage. It might have been done before, but I had never seen that. They were flying on spacecraft.

“I had my backstage laminate and showed everyone at Grant Sawyer Middle School.”

Smith: “We would set timers and go to Smith’s and stand in line for tickets. I would get there hours early because they would sell out in minutes. We would always get middle-of-the-road seats. Never the nosebleeds, but never the most expensive.

“The night of the show we were all decked out in our Backstreet wear, and a security guard came up to us and said really quietly, ‘Do you want to come down to the front? Please don’t freak out. Be really quiet. Come down, follow me.’

“He led us to the floor, like 12 rows back. One of the Backstreet Boys touched my hand and I didn’t wash my hand for a week. It was one of those experiences I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Opening act “This Is Us” fans may not have remembered was the opening act: Mandy Moore

Downslide: March 8 and 10, 2001

What the R-J said: Are the Backstreet Boys over? The once-royal pop group played to 10,000 fans in a 13,500-seat concert hall. … The mood before Thursday’s concert was quietly spooky.

Smith: “I specifically remember that one being my favorite. The ‘Black & Blue’ concert was a lot less showy, but it was for the fans who genuinely followed them. A little less hyped and a little more focused on their music.”

Backstreet Boy who stepped out for a side gig at the House of Blues, adopting a British accent and an alter ego, Johnny No Name: A.J. McLean.

McCoy: “Laura Herlovich (who did publicity for her father, entertainer Clint Holmes) got me into all kinds of stuff. There was a fan event done like a press conference, where I gave A.J. my hat. He always wore hats, so we had it set up to where I would give him a hat from (the coincidentally named) AJ’s steakhouse in the Hard Rock.

“I asked him if he wanted to trade a hat, but of course this was the time he wasn’t wearing a hat. But I was so nervous I stuck to my script and gave him the hat.”

Demise and resurrection: October 2001-May 2014

What the R-J said: The Backstreet Boys’ Aug. 17 (2001) concert at the MGM Grand Garden has been postponed and reset for Oct. 19. A Tuesday announcement said band member A.J. McLean needed more time to battle alcoholism and depression.

Mondell: “I did go to the newest one (Planet Hollywood, May 2014) and you still know every song and every word. You don’t forget it. It’s really funny. And everyone’s our age, that’s the funniest thing. Everyone’s in their 30s or older and singing the Backstreet Boys songs. It also ages you, because you look around and think, ‘OK, this is ridiculous.’

“I really was surprised, because I saw New Kids at (the same theater) and they seemed really old and worn out. It was like they couldn’t do it anymore. But Backstreet, they were older, but they really did a great job. I was impressed at how they were still dancing, still singing and jumping around the whole time.”

McCoy: “I’m excited and I’ll go with my girlfriends and we’ll relive our youth. But if it was ’NSync? I’d be like, on the floor dying.”

Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.

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