Bluesfest by day: Backstreet Boys & America
Backstreet boys in a line standing in profile (credit: Greg Kolz)
While there were packed crowds other nights of Bluesfest, the final night of the festival was by far its most busy. With a bit of classic rock and some boy band magic, Bluesfest closed on a massive high.
There was a lot great song writing to appreciate at the Videotron Stage, as America pulled out a myriad of great songs from their back catalogue. Tracks like "The Border" showed that the band could effortlessly deliver their rich harmonies like no time had passed, and even approaching material like "Eleanor Rigby" couldn't harm their abilities. Though Gerry Beckley slipped off his own microphone a few times, it didn't hurt tracks like "Woman Tonight" in any serious way. America also seemed comically down to earth, saying "Some of our nine fans are here tonight!"
This sense of humour didn't mean the band was disinterested however, as they played "Only In Your Heart" with a wonderful showing of passion for their craft. Even the track's solo took an ecstatic direction, mixing furious playing with lots of unusual effects. After mocking themselves again with a line about how draining some classic rock sets can be, America made a bizarre callout to their social media platforms, which seemed weird enough that it was hard to tell if it was kind of in-joke. "Now here's a song we've been playing since high school" they said launching into a sing-along of "California Dreaming." Renditions of "Lonely People" and "Sister Golden Hair" were smooth, but it was the finale of "A Horse With No Name" that stopped the worried scurrying to the City Stage to truly appreciate some amazing music right before the headlining slot of the night.
Now, we'd seen some fun and overly impressive headlining sets throughout the festival already, but The Backstreet Boys had the closest set to a full-fledged arena set Bluesfest saw. The visuals were larger than life and there were so many coordinated dance moves from the group that you knew the show was a step-up. It was also the only night the crowd massively leaked over to the second half of the main lawn to scope out spots. But hey, it's Backstreet, so if half the city wasn't there it would be a little strange. Now onto the show itself.
Backstreet Boys were in fine form singing and grooving around to "I Wanna Be With You," nailing every high note and step like it was still the '90s. "Who's been with the Backstreet Boys for the last 26 years?" asked Brian Littrell to huge screams from the crowd. "Haha…me too!" he joked back at them. Even to newer material like "Chateau" the crowd was losing their minds to the point that you could hear screams through their mics in any lull of singing. But with a podium stretching nicely out into the crowd, the band did their best to show love right back with high fives. Some members even got down on their chest to reach out to the far sides of their stage extension. With a solemn but elegant performance of "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely," the group started showing off plenty of costume changes. These breaks behind the stage also allowed the singers to dynamically enter one at a time into songs, with spotlights giving them a kind of angelic quality too through "Incomplete."
Leading into "More Than That" the band upped their already magnificent visuals with light-up mic stands that they incorporated beautifully into their choreography. More than just the great props and effects, the show stood out for being a rare headliner set where the voices were louder than anything else. The crowd sang loudly to "Shape of My Heart" and "Drowning" before we got some on-stage changing as well. They also threw some underwear to the audience to allegedly "Pay back years of bras thrown on stage." This latter half of the set was a true spectacle for even a casual fan, as they rotated between "Quit Playing Games with My Heart" to a cappella tracks elevated above the crowd and then some old school '90s dance breaks that had the whole crowd screaming for such a great throwback. After these performance highs, the band set into a full musical medley onslaught of music to close out the show. "Everybody"? Check! "We've Got It Going On"? Check! "It's Gotta Be You"? Check! "I Want It That Way" was the cherry on top, fueling another round of vocals from the crowd. Though this end of the set was more of melodic focus, they came back with "Larger Than Life" to really take things out on a showcase of everything they do so well!