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 27.10.09 - NewsObserver.com

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PostSubject: 27.10.09 - NewsObserver.com   27.10.09 - NewsObserver.com Icon_minitimeThu 29 Oct - 6:02

The Fans Want It That Way
BY SADIA LATIFI - Staff Writer


CHARLOTTE -- We started lining up at 3 a.m. We wore ponchos and set up tents to shelter ourselves from morning downpours. We traveled from places like Japan, Italy, Chapel Hill.

We stood in line for hours in our heels to see our favorite group, the Backstreet Boys, perform in a parking lot at Dixie's Tavern in Charlotte on Saturday night -- the group's first North Carolina stop in eight years.

The "boys" -- now almost all in their 30s -- performed their only U.S. show following the Oct. 6 release of their seventh studio album, "This Is Us," for Kiss 95.1's annual Gravedigger's Ball. They were headed to Portugal to kick off their world tour this week.

We were always their biggest fans but just, as member Brian Littrell told the crowd, "all grown up now."

"They're like old friends you can't wait to see again because it's been a year," said Maria Leonardi, 23, who flew in from Detroit.

Just don't call the new record a comeback. The four members -- Littrell, 34; Nick Carter, 29; Howie Dorough, 36; and A.J. McLean, 31 (Kevin Richardson, 38, left the group in 2006) -- have been releasing albums since their millennial heyday.

Sure, the group and their record company have made mistakes when choosing radio-friendly singles and promoting their music. Personal and legal dramas have also challenged the group, who have sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and been together for 17 years.

"This is Us" marks their return to mainstream dance-pop. The use of Auto-Tune is minimal (these guys can sing, after all) but otherwise it is as overproduced and catchy as anything else on the charts.

But the album hasn't sold well in the U.S. After debuting in Billboard's Top 10, the album fell more than 50 spots a week later.

And it hurts us. It hurts me. While it's much easier to get concert tickets, I want them to be mainstream again because I know they're trying to be, and their new music is objectively -- no, seriously -- good enough to put them back on the map.

I've been a fan for the last 11 years. My interest in journalism began after I started a mildly successful e-mail newsletter about the group when I was 12. I learned HTML after starting a fan site.

But the fans have grown up and our adolescent obsession has waned. Some of us are married, some of us have children. Some of us have extra income for concerts far away, while others can't afford to travel.

One young woman bafflingly flew into Charlotte from Tokyo -- even though the group was just in Japan last month and plans to return in February. While my parents once spent thousands of dollars to support my habit, as an adult I cannot in good conscience spend $200 on a VIP ticket to meet the group before shows.

Nick is still my favorite (and we've always been on a first-name basis), but I have substituted his face on my wall with a Radiohead poster. While dating him would be totally age-appropriate, I'm now more interested in being a friend to the whole group. Maybe even a confidante or consultant. (As the tattoo on Nick's wrist reads, "Old habits die hard.")

It is what it is

Being a fan of a group that gets no respect or airplay stinks.

"They're the last ones standing," said Holly Brooks, 22, who flew in from Sarasota, Fla.

"And the music is still good, so it has been very frustrating to see them not get the support they deserve."

But we endure.

We don't pretend the Backstreet Boys are something they're not. While some members write songs and play instruments, they are a singing and dancing act. And in that context, no one is better.

These days, nothing about seeing or meeting the group would drive me to tears. But sometimes, their harmonizing still does.

As we have loved and lost, so have the guys. Members have faced serious health issues and family tragedies.

Maybe once we thought they were pure and perfect, but now we revel at glimpses of their humanity. We forgive them for mistakes just as we have been forgiven for the ones we make in our own lives.

Kaye Hare, 48, of Hickory, stood in line with her daughter, Molly, 18. She told me she wore a button with McLean's face on her shirt every day during his stint in rehab for substance abuse in 2001.

The guys finally came on stage at 10 p.m. They performed just under 30 minutes. (The Chapel Hill-based Michael Jackson tribute band, Who's Bad?, opened the show and played twice as long.)

We were tired from standing all day. Some of the dances felt silly. But it didn't matter because once they put their voices together, something magical happened.

And in the end, that's all that matters. We live for every smile and wave, we scream at every solo. We love the music, we love the members. We're Backstreet Boys fans -- this is us.

Source : BSB Anonymous
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