Backstreet’s back … and ready to party with their fans! As soon as I heard the Backstreet Boys were launching their Las Vegas residency on March 1 at the Axis at Planet Hollywood (with dates currently running through July 1), I was ready to hop on the plane. But when I found out they were also hosting two afterparties a week at the Chateau Nightclub and Rooftop at the Paris Las Vegas hotel for a mere $40, I pretty much started packing my bag.
For a girl who collected every Backstreet Boys import CD in the mid-1990s and rewound her VHS over and over to swoon over every perfectly placed strand of Nick Carter’s hair in 1996’s “Quit Playing Games With My Heart” video, there was no question where I was going to be the first weekend of March. I thought I had peaked early that time I got to make the Boys sandwiches in my cubicle when they came for an office visit while I was interning at Nickelodeon back in 1997 (yes, Brian Littrell and Nick, I’m the one who ran back to the prize closet to make sure you got extra vats of slimy Gak to take home with you!), but that changed with one night in Vegas.
I don't remember the walk from the concert venue to the club at the next casino over that Saturday night, March 4. After all, I was still in an euphoric daze from the 97-minute show focused mostly on early hits such as “I Want It That Way,” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and “We’ve Got It Going On.” (Personal highlight: that chair dance from “As Long As You Love Me” — now with new and improved yellow folding chairs!)
The only thing I really remember is saying on repeat: “The show felt so short!” But I soon realized the concert was just the prelude to the ultimate Backstreet adventure.
After winding through an entrance of the Paris Las Vegas casino, we were led up an open staircase, through a gigantic empty bar, up another few steps and then to an elevator. Seemed fitting that it would take a Harry Potter–like maze to get anywhere near the band whose photos were flashing all over the Las Vegas Strip as if they were larger than life (wink!).
Picture the most ultimate Las Vegas rooftop party scene: flashing blue and pink lights, booming music and servers carrying strobe lights to serve vodka drinks. I took a quiet moment to let it all sink in and looked up to see that I was standing under the glow of the Eiffel Tower — the Vegas replica, that is. Everything was that ridiculously grandiose.
A.J. McLean, Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson arrived just around 12:30 a.m. and jumped right up on the banquette, where I was sitting. They asked the already screaming partygoers, “Can I hear you scream?” (I guess when you’ve been a Backstreet Boy for 24 years, your scream threshold is unlike the average person’s.)
The guys walked around the banquette, high-fiving and waving to all the cellphones raised in the air. And then the DJ started playing music. First up, of course: a Backstreet Boys song.
My instinct when a BSB song comes on in a too-cool venue like this is to show no signs of pop fandom. But then I realized: I’m here with my people! Every single person was there because of these retro hits. My slow head bob to “Larger Than Life” soon transformed into full-on grooving as the entire rooftop joined the guys singing along karaoke-style.
When the opening chords to “Everybody (Backstreet's Back)” came on, I realized Kevin was behind me. As in, if I had better posture, I would have been leaning against his leg. Backstreet’s (literally behind my) back, all right!
When I looked up again, A.J. was doing pelvic thrusts a foot away from me. The party was just getting started. The DJ eventually switched to other classic tunes from artists including Snoop Dogg and Montell Jordan, but every time he played another BSB song, the audience exploded in excitement. I mean, partying to Backstreet Boys songs with the Backstreet Boys on the Las Vegas Strip? It’s simply too much to handle.
Confetti was thrown, selfies were taken. There were even other boy band members (Erik-Michael Estrada from O-Town!) in attendance. In essence, it was every teen’s boy-band dream brought to life in the Vegas haze. I mean, they were so close that at one point A.J. leaned down to apologize for stepping on my dress.
When I left around 2 a.m., squeezing by the crowd around Kevin, who was still diligently taking selfies with fans, I still couldn’t believe I was at a party with the very same Backstreet Boys whose memorabilia continues to take up too much room in my parents' house.
It may have taken more than two decades, but the Backstreet Boys finally quit playing games with my heart — and let me live out my ultimate boy-band fantasy in Vegas!
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