When Kevin Richardson, the eldest member of the Backstreet Boys, returned to the band a couple years ago after a several-years hiatus, he was curious: Who comes to the shows these days? Who still fills those seats?
A lot of people, it turns out, of all different backgrounds.
”We’ve got tweens, we’ve got teenagers, we’ve got college students, we’ve got young professionals, we’ve got middle-aged and we’ve got grandparents,“ he says in a phone interview.
And there are a lot more guys in the crowd these days, too, he adds.
"I don’t know if they feel like they can finally proclaim their Backstreet love or whatever, but it’s amazing.”
With Backstreet pride alive and well, Mr. Richardson, along with bandmates Howie Dorough, A.J. McLean, Nick Carter and Brian Littrell (also his cousin), still are savoring the success that’s taken root during the past two decades with such hits as ”Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),“ ”Backstreet’s Back“ and ”I Want It That Way“ and has helped them sell more than 130 million records worldwide. The group is in the midst of an international tour to promote its 20th anniversary album, ”In A World Like This,“ and will bring the show to Pittsburgh tonight at First Niagara Pavilion.
”We’re going to take them on a trip down memory lane,“ Mr. Richardson says. ”They’re going to get a little bit of our new album, but they’re going to get all of the songs that they grew up with.“
These classic Backstreet Boys songs have stood the test of time and have allowed the Florida-grown group to do the same.
"We’ve got songs that take you someplace,” he says. “We put a lot of heart and soul into our vocals.”
And the music industry has taken notice. In addition to a slew of Grammy, Billboard, American Music and World Music awards racked up over the years, the Backstreet Boys commemorated their 20th anniversary with the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame -- a feat for any entertainer, Mr. Richardson says, but especially for a quintet labeled as “a teenie act” in the early years.
They also know how to spice things up so the music doesn’t get stale. In concert, expect acoustic twists and remixed arrangements for some hits, yet the sound doesn’t stray too far from the songs followers know and love.
"You have to put yourself in the fans’ shoes,“ Mr. Richardson says.
Being mindful of others’ wants also is what’s helped band members stick together.
“We’re like a family, and in a family sometimes you need to get out of each other’s faces and give each other space for a while, and we know that,” he says. “We try to communicate as best we can and respect one another and hold each other accountable.”
Now that all of the boys are married men and four of them fathers, the Backstreet family dynamic is different from the early days. When wives and children accompany them on the road, they strive to strike a balance between family men by day and Backstreet Boys by night.
"I’ve shunned hotels on this tour,“ Mr. Richardson says. ”Every time I get a chance I’m pulling into a campground somewhere and grilling out and building a bonfire and getting out into nature with my kids and my family. The guys do things with their families, and sometimes we do things together as a family.“
The anniversary tour already has carried over into the group’s 21st year, and the celebration will keep going into 2015 with stops planned across the world, including Australia, South America, Mexico, Thailand and Malaysia. In October, they’ll head to the Bahamas with a couple of thousand fans for the annual Backstreet Boys cruise. They’re also exploring potential distribution and theatrical release opportunities for a new documentary that chronicles the making of the 20th anniversary album and tour and the band’s background.
And there’s no end in sight.
"After we’re finished taking this tour to every corner of the globe, we’re going to sit down and say, ’Hey, what do we want to do right now?’ We want to continue making music and continue to establish our legacy,“ Mr. Richardson says. ”We feel like we could do this for as long as we want.“
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Backstreet Boys ’In A World Like This’ tour with Avril Lavigne
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Where: First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown.
Tickets: concerts.livenation.com, www.ticketmaster.com or 1-800-653-8000.
Sara Bauknecht; firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SaraB_PG.