With more than 37 million albums sold, 16 Billboard Hot 100 hits, and over two decades as a group under their belt, the Backstreet Boys have a lot to celebrate in 2017.
In typically blockbuster fashion, the iconic boy band is celebrating their achievements in one of the biggest ways possible: a Las Vegas residency. Following in the footsteps of fellow ’90s icons Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez, BSB will kick off their 26-date Vegas stint (appropriately titled “Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life”) at The AXIS at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on Wednesday, March 1.
Leading up to the big night, Billboard chatted with Backstreet Boy Howie Dorough about how his group ended up with their own residency, what fans can expect, and their upcoming 25th anniversary as a band — oh, and that recent Bachelor appearance.
What made you guys want to do a Vegas residency? Was it something that you wanted to do before it even became a reality?
It’s funny, because people have been asking how long this has been on the radar, and if you would’ve asked us over 10 years, 20 years ago — definitely 20 years ago, “Do you guys see yourselves doing Vegas anytime soon?” We would’ve been like, “Uhh, no? We still feel like we’re just starting.” At the time, Vegas felt more like for people who want to slow down, retire, stay in one place, and we were like, “No way. We want to travel the world. We’re lucky to get out of America, out of our city and state. Why would we want to focus on one place?”
Cut to [decades] later, all of the sudden, Vegas is the place that everyone wants to be at. I think it’s because in the last 10 years, people like Celine Dion, Elton John — even the younger generation of Britney Spears, J. Lo — they made Vegas a hot desirable place that artists want to go to instead of just in and out on tour. We used to always have fun when we go there for a couple of days, but to think of being one place… for us, now, in our career, it makes a lot of sense. I think it’s a little bit healthier for us, on the bodies. As well as the fact that we now have families, we can bring them out there if they want to visit.
Vegas, when we go on tour, is one of the hottest spots for not only people in the United States, but international fans. And then as well, a lot of our fans are at the age where they have their own money, they’re getting married, having bachelorette parties, birthday parties. It’s a spot where a lot of our fans are going to already, so it’s like, why not just join them? Make it a big weekend for them. It’s become a great destination spot for us now.
Is it something you guys pitched or did you have the idea brought to you?
There’s been some rumblings going on for the last couple of years. Live Nation, when we were on our last tour, said, “Hey, we’d love for you guys to play the AXIS Theater at Planet Hollywood and see how it feels to you guys.” So we actually did a couple nights there and thought, “Oh, this is a nice little fit here.” The audience is the perfect size for us to feel like we’re doing a great show that contain a good amount of people but also be very intimate for our fans.
We even talked to Larry Rudolph, Britney’s [Spears] manager, [to discuss] what he thought about her fit there and how she felt about it. He talked very highly of it, and actually said, “I think you guys would kill it here, it’s a no-brainer for you guys.” So, amongst the advice given by them, our promoters, our management, our agents, we’re like, “Let’s do this, why not? It’s a good fit, we’re coming up on our 25-year anniversary [as a band], why not kick it off with a bang?”
Upon announcing the residency, Brian said it’s going to be a BSB show on steroids — but you guys kind of already have a show on steroids, so how will you be taking it to the next level?
We’ll be giving you a double-dose of steroids now, I guess. You’re going to leave so pumped that you’re going to start lifting some weights afterwards. [Laughs.] We want to put on a show that truly is larger than life. When people come to Vegas, they expect a show that’s over the top. So we’re gonna do it — we’re gonna pull out all the hits. The fact that we’re not having to spend the money on traveling around the world, taking the stage up and down, all the extra business… we’re putting more money into the show. It’s going to be a huge show — us, dancers, great video content, lights, an amazing stage we put together. We’re very proud of it.
We’ve been dancing our butts off this past month learning new routines. A lot of them are the old dances, but there’s new dances too. I’m excited about it. It’s going to be a show that fans saw back in the days of Millenium or Black & Blue. We’re pulling out all the stops. I think it’s going to be something that people will talk about.
Now that the show is probably mostly put together, how would you describe the show? Especially to someone who may have never seen you before?
We’re just a bunch of guys who sing. We tell people to drink a Coca-Cola, come see our show and see if they have a little energy in them… No, I’m kidding — we’re just going to try to put on something.
We are so blessed that we’ve had so many great songs that fans have turned into big hits for us. We know a lot of the songs were songs that helped people create memories of the time that we came out with them. So when I say we want to take fans down memory lane, we want to take them back to help remember those moments when they first heard our songs. We’re going to do things to some nostalgic stuff to bring them back there, some of the choreography and video content, stuff like that.
I think we’re going to put on a show that’s going to make people get away from whatever’s going on in life. They can just go there, enjoy themselves, relax — well, as much as they can, they’ll probably be standing up and singing along… it seems like that’s what our concerts lend themselves to. So bring some comfortable shoes, anyone who’s coming for their first time.
“Larger Than Life” seems like a no-brainer for a Vegas residency title, but was there any debate over what the show would be called?
No, that was a suggestion that was thrown out and we were like, “Yeah, that kind of fits,” of all the song titles. We were like, can we throw in a “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas?” or a couple of different titles, but it kept on coming back to “Larger Than Life.” Everything in Vegas is large, so why not have Backstreet Boys large there too?
There’s talk that you guys are working on your next album. Will fans be hearing any new stuff at the shows?
Right now we have two seconds to ourselves outside of rehearsals, but we’re constantly creating and coming up with the next plan for the next song to be recorded. We’ve recorded about six songs already in this past year that we really like. Whether or not they’ll be on the album, I don’t know yet.
One thing with Backstreet Boys, we never try to rush out an album. We always try to make quality music that can stand the test of time. And we always want to make every song sound like a single, so fans want to buy the whole record and not just a single. So we really take our time in crafting that. That’s something that doesn’t happen overnight, we go through an evolution with making a record, where we go one direction, then another direction, and come back full circle… or we totally depart and go completely south.
We didn’t want to put anything in the show off this new album that may not make the record, because we’re not anywhere near done. This show is really focused on the greatest hits. We’re definitely going to sprinkle in some of the fan-favorites that weren’t hits, and a couple of our [own] favorites. But it’s going to be — a good, 80-to-90 percent — the nostalgia stuff.
You guys were recently on The Bachelor – was that a decent glimpse into what your rehearsals have been like?
Yeah, it definitely goes into the “Okay, let’s clean this up, let’s break it down, let’s go slow” [approach]. That’s definitely a glimpse of what it’s like, especially in the first couple days of rehearsal with us going over a song and practicing with each other, trying to get it in our bodies. But we normally don’t have that many pretty girls running around us. [Laughs.]
How did that appearance come about?
Our manager, Jen Sousa, is the biggest Bachelor fan in the world, I have to call her out. It was definitely her mission to get us on that show. And we all can’t deny watching it, whether it’s in our downtime with our wives, or maybe accidentally by ourselves. Whether it’s a pleasure or a guilty pleasure, we’ve been fans of the show throughout the years.
Once again, [the contestants and viewers] are right at the age that they’re our fan base — so it’s like, why not do shows that our fans are watching anyways? Hopefully it makes us semi-current and hip still.
Does it feel like you’ve been doing this for more than 20 years? When you made your first album, did you ever think you’d hit 20 years as BSB?
My memory doesn’t feel like it’s been 20 years, but my body definitely feels like it’s been 20 years [Laughs.] To think back that this has been 20 years, I’m like, “For real?” We’re actually coming up on 25 years as a group, but it just feels like, to a point, that it was just yesterday we were all meeting for the first time, working on our harmonies and dance moves and stuff like that. Thank god there’s a lot of pictures and videos that were taken throughout the years to help us jog our memories. Because it’s almost memory overload — we’ve had so many experiences. We’re so blessed though, I’m so grateful for the memories we have created.
So this Vegas residency will be a great way to jog your memory too.
Absolutely. It’s funny, even just watching some of the video content like, “Oh my god, we were babies when we started.” And then I’m like, “Here we are, now grown ass-old men with a family of babies now.”