Nine years after waving goodbye to their legions of Thai fans, the best-selling Backstreet Boys were back in town this week and after a few minutes, it really didn't feel as though they'd been away.
Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani was packed on Wednesday night with music fans wanting to revisit the glory days of the 1990s with Backstreet Boys' array of pop and R&B hits.
At 8.30pm, AJ McLean, Kevin Richardson, Brian Littrell, Nick Carter and Howie Dorough in cobalt blue suits kicked off the show with upbeat pop number "The Call" to deafening cheers. Like the old friends they are, the boys did not waste time on hellos but instead kept the show rolling with mellower tunes from the past like "Don't Want You Back", "Incomplete", "Permanent Stain" from their recent CD "In a World Like This" before reverting to 1997 with "All I Have to Give" from "Backstreet's Back" album.
The boys briefly left the stage, leaving interview excerpts showing on the big screen, but were back in minutes, this time dressed in T-shirts, jeans and sneakers that evoked their "campus tours in gymnasium" vibe at the beginning the of their career 22 years ago.
"We know Bangkok knows how to party. We've seen you party before," Brian Littrell told the crowd.
"This time we have rules, and if you want music from the Backstreet Boys, you have to follow these rules. First, you have to party like crazy, and second, which is very important, you have to party like it's 1995 all over again. Can you do that?"
A loud cheer erupted in confirmation, and the Backstreet Boys revived the '90s with "As Long As You Love Me", "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely", "Incomplete" and "I'll Never Break Your Heart".
The members did a great job at evoking that specific period, not only through their teen pop and soulful R&B sounds but also through their playfulness, approachable boy band charisma, and most importantly, the genuine chemistry between them. Without a doubt, the Backstreet Boys still very much enjoy each other's company.
They were happy to be on stage and the songs were delivered with passion and conviction. Fans were blown away and screamed like teenagers, forgetting that the entire show was being put together by just the five singers. The production somehow seemed so much bigger.
Next up was "We've Got It Goin' On", their Europop breakthrough hit from their 1995 self-titled debut. Now well into their late 30's and early 40's, not only do they still sing reasonably well, but they can also move in perfect sync and with dynamic vigour.
The boys cooled things down a bit with "Madeline" from the new album and "Quit Playing Games with My Heart" in an acoustic session that saw Carter and Littrell on guitar, Dorough on bass, Richardson on keyboard and McLean on cajon and percussion and reminded fans that these lads can do far more than just sing and dance.
The booming backing track returned with "The One" from 1999 album "Millennium" that |later became one of the best-selling albums of all time. That was quickly followed by a set that included "Love Somebody", "Shape of My Heart", "In a World Like This", which Richardson and McLean co-wrote for their children, and "I Want It That Way", which had everyone up and dancing.
The lights went out, and the song that the fans had been waiting for, "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" came on for the encore followed by "Larger Than Live" that concluded to the show.
Unlike many other band reunions where the members stick to past successes and familiar hits, the Backstreet Boys proved that an old band can stay impressively current and true to themselves with newer songs while still sounding very much as they did 20 years back.