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July 22, 2014

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Photos: The Backstreet Boys give fanatics what they want at Axis at Planet Hollywood, Chateau

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Bryan Steffy / WireImage

The Backstreet Boys at Chateau in the Paris on Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Las Vegas.

Backstreet Boys at Axis at Planet Hollywood

Brian Littrell of The Backstreet Boys at Axis at Planet Hollywood on Friday, May 30, 2014, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Backstreet Boys at Chateau

The Backstreet Boys at Chateau in the Paris on Saturday, May 31, 2014, in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Backstreet Boys at Chateau/Christopher Rauschnot @24kMediaonTwitter

Fans of The Backstreet Boys fall into two categories: admirers and fanatics. Admirers like the catchy hooks, wholesome image and synched choreography. They sing along with the words and download albums to their playlists.

Then there are the fanatics. They know who sings what line in what song (including ad libs), who’s favorite color is orange, they have every copy of every album in digital and on CD, they melt at every pelvic thrust, and they have a picture of *insert name of favorite Backstreet Boy here* as their Facebook avatar.

Admittedly or not, they also know which hotel the boys are staying and the name of the back gate security guard they tried to bribe earlier in the day. An admirer, I found myself at Friday night’s concert, the first of two, at Axis in Planet Hollywood surrounded by fanatics. Like Ashton and Demi, we are better off apart than together.

If you saw BSB’s stop last September at Mandalay Bay Events Center, then you weren’t in for any surprises. The same light-gray tailored suits, a sharply produced LED-filled stage, their iconic dance moves and a constant barrage of their most popular hits followed the same formula nine months ago.

That is one of the main appeals of BSB and boybands — back in the day (BSB, ’N Sync, New Kids on the Block) and nowadays (One Direction, The Wanted, Five Seconds of Summer) — in general. They may not have the spontaneity of a concert by The Killers, but they are consistent, and they are consistently good.

What fans get with these five “boys” are more than 20 years of hits, and although they’ve never had a No. 1 single, they are the biggest-selling boyband of all time with more than 130 million albums (knowing that fact pushes me more toward fanatic and farther away from admirer).

The Backstreet Boys have all aged incredibly well, their music has proved timeless, and they can still do the “Thriller”-esque choreography to “Backstreet’s Back” without throwing out their backs. This crowd came to see BSB sing and dance, and they got what they wanted.

The audience was showered with hits from “Backstreet Boys” with “Everybody,” “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and “All I Have to Give.” “Incomplete” from “Never Gone” was a good bridge between old and new, and a few of their more recent post-boyband-era singles peppered throughout the night gave admirers new songs to download later.

It was the mega hits off “Millennium” that set Axis at Planet Hollywood on fire: “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” and “Don’t Want You Back” had the crowd chanting in unison, and “I Want It That Way” and “Larger Than Life” were used for the encore and the show’s closer.

What these Boys offer Las Vegas is a sampling from one of the biggest-selling eras of music. Aside from when Britney Spears plays “Britney: Piece of Me” in this same theater at Planet Hollywood, there is virtually no tribute to pop music on the Strip.

If The Rat Pack and Elvis are too old, if Cirque du Soleil is just not your thing, and if $500 bottles of Skyy are a little out of your price range, what options do the ever-growing population of 20- and 30-something tourists have aside from blackjack tables?

A.J. McLean may have alluded to things to come when he said, “What do you think of these two words? ‘Backstreet Boys residency.’ ” He got the answer that he was looking for as the crowd erupted in screams. I was about to point out that he said three words, not two, but all the fanatics would have told me to shut up.

Singer Avril Lavigne served as the opening act both nights. McLean and BSB bandmates Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and Kevin Richardson hosted a concert after-party at nearby Chateau in the Paris on Saturday night. (Brian Littrell was absent.)

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