PHM – Backstreet Boys in Hanoi

PHM – Backstreet Boys in Hanoi

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Was Backstreet back alright?

26 March 2011, finally the Backstreet Boys arrived at My Dinh Stadium for one of the most-anticipate shows ever in Hanoi. People have been talking about it for months and one week before the show it was insane! Probably “Backstreet Boys” was the most-used phrase by people in both Hanoi and HCMC. Well, it may seem like I’m exaggerating but answer me this: how many times did you yourself say the phrase during that one week only? However, just forget about all the pre-show fuss, how did they really do or was Backstreet back really alright? My observation comes below..

I came pretty early in advance of the show. 7.05pm. There were already loads of people in front of the gates and I felt the heat right from the parking lot. VND20,000 for a motorbike! And I doubt that late comers could get a space to park – even with that 4-times-usual price.

Going into the large stadium, I still saw lots of empty seats (it was arranged for an audience of 55,000 but later I heard “just” 30,000 tickets had been sold). And the empty seats were actually the cheaper ones while the two-million-dong-VIP rows were totally packed! Everyone wanted to get the best seats to capture the best images of their idols.

Looking around the crowd, I was quite amazed.

I used to think that Backstreet Boys were only for our generation who were 10-16 when their famous teen-pop single “As Long As You Love Me” hit MTV and Billboard in 1997. But no, a lot of young school boys and girls who are more K-Pop enthusiasts (if they are Vietnamese) or Lady Gaga believers (if they are Westerners) showed up, and also many middle-aged people adding to my surprise.


The show started around 8.15pm. When the band jumped out from behind the huge main screen the audience burst out screaming loudly. No more definition of “seat”! Everyone stood up, crashing on each other to rush hastily towards the area-dividing-fence, many of them even started to jump into the VIP area to try to get as close as possible to the stage. Several meters could be a big deal. And when the music went high with the very familiar rhythm of “Everybody” almost everyone was dancing and screaming like crazy (as for me, I was still busy taking notes and struggling not to get knocked down).

Coming after “Everybody” were two songs I had never heard of before: “We’ve Got It Going on” and “PDA” (later on I learned that these were songs from their latest album “This is us”). Then came something familiar again, the medley of “Quit Playing Games” and “As Long As You Love Me”. To be honest I was so happy to hear something that I still had memorized!

The show went on with about 22 songs in total. The songs from their new album, like “She’s a Dream”, “Bigger”, “Undone”, “All of Your Life”, “Straight through My Heart” and even the theme song “This is Us” left almost no impression on me.

Probably watching live is not the best way to listen to pop songs for the first time so judging them just by this performance does not make much sense; thus, I’d rather keep my comments for later when I’m done with their official singles… And of course they also performed all the oldies that were super well-known during their “top-of-the-world” period such as “Show me the Meaning of Being Lonely”, “All I Have to Give”, “I’ll never Break your Heart”, “Shape of my Heart”, “More than that”, “Larger than Life” and “I want it that Way”, and also “Incomplete”. The song I enjoyed the most was “Shape of my Heart”, it was the best mix of vocals and background music and AJ did a very good job.

AJ – star of the night

In fact I have to say I was quite disappointed with Brian and Nick. They were sort of lead vocals of the band (I say “sort of” because in BSB, the roles of the 5 members (now 4) were more equal than in other boy bands – all of them had chance to sing solo. However, Brian, Nick and AJ still had more vocals than Howie and the former Kevin). I reckon Brian and Nick could be good in the studio with their singing skills but in a live show, in the large open air, their voices were quite “drowning” since they were too thin and soft. Only AJ stood out with his powerful vocals. And the surprise actually came from Howie, he almost reached the volume level of AJ though he didn’t sing alone much and mostly acted as background for the other guys.

Personally speaking, I was fairly unhappy with the choreography of the show.

People say “Their dancing skills are not as smooth as before” but I don’t agree. It was obvious that they were not that serious in the choreography. It was too relaxed and free-styled, sometimes even a bit… chaotic. They didn’t really dance with their normal ability so there’s nothing to comment on their dancing skills. Maybe this could be explained by the fact that Hanoi was the last destination in their world tour after one hundred fourteen similar performances, thus, they must have had a very relaxed attitude(!).

The most creative part of the whole program in my opinion was the short movies that were screened in the breaks when the band went inside to change clothes.

Four short movie trailers featuring four big Hollywood movies with each of the band members playing the main role in one movie: Howie played agent O’Connor in “Fast & Furious”; AJ replaced Brad Pitt in “Fight Club”; Brian took the role of the prince in “Enchanted” and the funniest was Neo-Nick in “Matrix”! I really like these movies so if anyone knows where I can find them please let me know!

The show lasted for 1.5 hours. For the audience it could seem like quite a short time, but for the band I guess it was already a tough job to sing and dance and run around (literally speaking) even in a very relaxed style. When the last song “Straight through my Heart” finished, the huge screen played the image of the four guys walking slowly away and disappearing behind the door at the end of the corridor. It was an emotional moment for the fans when they had to see their idols leaving. A lot of them still lingered around just to try to catch a glimpse of the band somewhere and to try to find out where they were going afterwards. It’s true that Backstreet Boys still attract people even at their age of 30-40 years old.

I left the show, not best-satisfied with the quality of the performance, but who cares? Still it was the biggest music event in Hanoi that I have ever been to!

Read another review of PHM about Backstreet Boys, click here.

Pham Hoang Mien has been with Hanoi Grapevine for some time, mainly involved in social media and occasional translation. As an enthusiastic music lover, now she wants to challenge herself in a new role – being a columnist writing about music and musicians for the site.

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