Nick Carter et al. rock it to the moon

Nick Carter, the New Electric, and Dan Talevski at Venue Nightclub, 11/23/16

Photo by Ryan Johnson
Photo by Ryan Johnson

Backstreet’s back but by the single: the pop group’s forever babyface Nick Carter returned with his third solo album All American last November just two days shy of his show at Venue Nightclub. The nostalgia was predictably strong at Venue, but he dwelled in the past as much as he celebrated the present. And backed by a rock band, he never delivered that nostalgia exactly the way everyone remembered the Backstreet Boys’ greatest hits.

First opener Dan Talevski is no stranger to Nick Carter. The Georgetown, Ontario musician opened for the Backstreet Boys during their This Is Us Tour in 2010 after he rose to fame as a YouTube star with, as he informed the crowd, “millions of views.” He’d been signed to Interscope Records at the time but split from the label because they told him how to dress and wanted him to sing other people’s songs. This biographical detail seemed peculiar: although he performed his own songs, he still sounded and dressed the part of major pop star. At the very least, his arena-sized ambitions and personality were difficult to ignore.

Talevski played a brief, approximately 30-minute set. Stage time was precious, so it didn’t seem like the best idea for him to have covered both Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” and the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”. Talevski probably could have benefitted more in the long-run if he stuck to playing his originals; after all, he left Interscope so that he didn’t have to sing other people’s songs. To his credit though, I did overhear someone tell her friend, “He sings it better than Bieber. Maybe he’s a better person.” And amongst Talevski’s originals, he did include his latest single “Rocket” which showed off some effortless looking guitar chops.

Next, Calgary’s the New Electric brought a pop sound that was even more rooted in rock. They also ramped up the physical theatrics, to the point of becoming histrionics. Singer Kyle McKearney dipped his mic stand and pretended it was a shovel. He hopped on top of the monitors that lined the edge of the stage and assumed wide-legged stances, hoisted his mic stand high, and darted back and forth across the stage. The band’s moves weren’t always hits though: the guitarist tried to swing his instrument around his shoulder, but it snagged on something and dangled mid-spin. The audience laughed, and he did too. After all, as the New Electric sang on their final song, “life’s what you make it.”

The house lights went down, and the smart phone backlights went up as fans surged towards the stage when Nick Carter and his band made their grand entrance. From the beginning, they showed off his rocking side; Carter himself took to guitar for several songs.

Carter flung compliments to the women in the crowd the way I’m sure he’s used to women flinging garments at him.

(Only one bra flew at Venue, and it didn’t quite reach the stage.) “It’s a little cold outside. But you guys are heating me up,” he said before he discarded his jacket and tie. He combined “I’m Taking Off” with Elton John’s “Rocket Man” which explained the confusing moment before those songs when Carter asked who was going to go on his rocket ship with him. And there were the standard regionalized shout outs that of course a Backstreet Boy was able to get away with: “Since I realize how sexy all you Canadian women are every time I come here, I had to change the lyrics for you.” And so “All American” (which included Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” as an interlude) easily became “All Canadian”. “I like Canadian! Give me Canadian,” Carter sang as he shook his ass with his back turned to the groping front row.

“How many Backstreet Boys fans are here? Okay, I better see yo sexy asses in Vegas,” Carter said referring to the Backstreet Boys’ recent announcement of their upcoming 2017 Las Vegas residency. But for anyone unable (or unwilling) to travel, he and his instrument-toting band offered enough of a facsimile. “Since I’m a Backstreet Boy, I can play Backstreet Boys music,” he reasoned before jumping into an acoustic country-rock version of “As Long as You Love Me,” complete with a “yee-haw!”

Carter obliquely shouted out Vancouver by noting how the most rocking music came from the Pacific Northwest. Being in a boy band, he said, any time he can rock out, he’s “in Heaven.” He followed with a rock version of “Just Want You to Know”, “the edgiest thing Backstreet Boys did. See if you recognize it.”

As Carter disappeared to towel off and change shirts for the first of two times, crew members fitted the stage with stools and an electronic drum pad. The band took up an acoustic arrangement and performed stripped versions of “I Want It That Way” and “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”, objective highlights of the night based on fans’ reactions.

Besides Backstreet Boys hits, Carter threw back with collaborations he did with New Kids on the Block’s Jordan Knight (“One More Time”) and Avril Lavigne (“Get Over Me”). And 90s met 90s when he covered Oasis’s pub night/open mic/all occasion classic “Wonderwall”. He added more flavour to the evening by helping the audience go on vacation with the beachy “Second Wind” and the ultra-pop number “Tijuana”. “Last thing I remember / We were throwing back tequila,” the chorus went. On “Swet” and “Larger Than Life”, he showcased the Nick Carter everyone wanted to see, hitting all the requisite dance moves, clenching his fists, pointing his fingers and reaching his open palm in every direction, rubbing his torso, and grabbing his crotch – Nick Carter in all his pop star glory.

He capped off his 20-song performance with his only encore “Backstreet’s Back”, neatly referring back to his band teasing the mega-hit’s main riff at the very beginning of his set. Member by member, Carter gave his band their due props showing that Brian, Kevin, AJ, and Howie aren’t the only boys who have Nick’s back.


Full Nick Carter set list:

  1. “Blow Your Mind”
  2. “I’m Taking Off” / “Rocket Man”
  3. “Incomplete”
  4. “All American”
  5. “As Long as You Love Me”
  6. “One More Time”
  7. “Just Want You to Know”
  8. “I Want It That Way”
  9. “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” / “Madeleine”
  10. “I Will Wait”
  11. “Help Me”
  12. “Second Wind”
  13. “Wonderwall”
  14. “Burning Up”
  15. “Swet”
  16. “Larger Than Life”
  17. “End of Forever”
  18. “Tijuana”
  19. “19 in 99”
  20. “Backstreet’s Back”
Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu