Backstreet Boys in Abu Dhabi review: 30 years on, they've still got it

The boy band played a mix of their biggest hits as well as newer tracks at Etihad Arena

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At 35, there are very few bands I would still stand for two hours to watch perform live.

The Backstreet Boys, arguably the biggest boy band in the late 1990s and early 2000s, happen to be one of them.

Their career has spanned three decades, so it’s no surprise their Abu Dhabi concert sold out in only six hours.

The group, which consists of Nick Carter, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean, Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson, played some of their biggest career hits at Etihad Arena on Sunday, much to the delight of their fans in the region.

They took the stage at 9.05pm to the cheers of the excited crowd and opened with the energetic track Everyone from 2000’s Black & Blue, before throwing it back to I Wanna Be With You from their 1996 self-titled debut album.

They made it clear from the start that the night would not only be about their chart-toppers, but also songs that helped to make the Backstreet Boys who they are today.

The group then seamlessly transitioned to The Call, a crowd favourite that had fans singing along, with high energy as they sang and danced with moves that proved they can still charm after all these years.

Although older, they still come across as endearing as ever.

This was a theme throughout the night with an impressive 30-plus songs (although some were shortened versions) during their nearly two-hour set.

Old hits were mixed with newer tracks with fans cheering loudly in between.

Members also took turns individually chatting between songs. Brian thanked those in attendance, saying the fans who showed up are the reason why the Backstreet Boys still exist today.

“This is our first trip but will not be our last, we promise you,” he said.

Howie shared similar sentiments when he spoke, saying it was “an honour and a privilege” to perform in Abu Dhabi.

Nick called it “the most beautiful place I’ve been in the entire world". He said he loved it so much he was thinking of getting a house in the UAE capital.

Kevin also thanked the fans in the region for making them feel so welcomed.

Meanwhile, AJ spoke about the band’s impressive longevity, considering many other boy bands have not stayed together.

“It’s an incredible moment for us after 30 years together,” he said.

“How about 30 more years of Backstreet Boys?” he asked, while joking that they probably would no longer be able to dance but could still sing.

The band then continued with fan favourites such as Incomplete, Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), As Long as You Love Me and Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).

They also included music from their most recent album, 2019’s DNA, with songs such as Chateau, Breathe and Chances.

There was also a nice touch as a montage of all the members through the years played on the screens during a break between songs, which really helped to play into the nostalgia of the whole night.

I felt like I was 14 years old again, dancing and singing along to songs I used to watch on MTV after school.

Even as the group ended the night with their mega-hit I Want It That Way, they didn't make fans wait for long as they returned for an encore.

Dazzling in white outfits, they performed Don't Go Breaking My Heart from DNA and Larger than Life before confetti and streamers shot into the air as they finished their performance.

Although AJ may have been joking about 30 more years of the Backstreet Boys, if there's any boy band that could actually do it — as proven tonight with a sell-out crowd of madly adoring fans (yes, myself included) — it would be them.

Updated: May 07, 2023, 10:12 PM