The Time I Cried At A Backstreet Boys Show

Photo courtesy of Dana Gorab
It’s hard to forget the first time you see your idols live. For me, it was February 13, 2001. I was 9 years old, and I was told we were driving up to see my grandparents. What I was met with instead was a massive building that I had only been in once before. Inside that building, Allstate Arena, was 20,000 seats, two stages and five people that I was utterly obsessed with: the Backstreet Boys.

That show was just the beginning of the nearly two decades I’ve been seeing the Backstreet Boys live. That night, my parents and I were front row for the Black and Blue Tour as I gripped onto the new shirt, poster and necklace that I still own to this day. Seven months later, I sat in the very last row of the now-Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre with my mother, her boss and her boss’ daughter and watched the tiniest screen I’d ever seen project an updated version of the same tour. A week after my 20th birthday, my mother and I had perfect seats for the NKOTBSB Tour at United Center. In 2013, my friend Sam and I watched the Chicago Police Department shut down their set at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island. Three years later I not only met Nick Carter, A.J. McLean and Howie Dorough but got to interview them. Just two months ago, I took my mother to their Las Vegas residency at Planet Hollywood.

While all of these shows mean something special to me, this was the first time I got to treat my mother to one of their shows instead of the other way around. I splurged on better seats, got us matching shirts and walked into that show prepared to sing along to every song. What I wasn’t prepared for was how emotional I was going to get.

So many of their songs bring me back to specific times in my life, and when they slowly descended from the ceiling to “Larger Than Life”, I was instantly reminded of summer camp talent shows and choreographed dance routines. “Shape Of My Heart” brought me back to that front row seat at Allstate Arena. “The Call” had me reminiscing on when their Black and Blue album was waiting for me in the back seat of my mother’s car when I got out of school the day it was released.

On this particular night - April 10, 2019 - the audience got to witness the mayor of Las Vegas award them a key to the city and officially make it Backstreet Boys Day. Kevin got choked up during his speech, which in turn made me equally as emotional. I remember owning their self-titled album in 1997 and now look where they were - and where I was.

Towards the end of their set, they sang “All I Have To Give”. Right before the song began, crew members walked past us and laid down a platform that had been leaning against the barricade. My mother and I turned to each other and said out loud, “No way.” Yes way. A side door opened and out walked A.J. followed by Howie. Howie made his way to the platform that was literally inches away from us and almost immediately grabbed my mother’s hand as everyone around us outstretched their own. Watching that interaction made me incredibly emotional because not only was I thinking about how far they’ve come and how I’ve been a small part of their journey, but everything my mother did to let me be a part of that journey. It was a night that I won’t soon forget.

- Gina Catalano, founder of Black is the New AP Style