My write up of our outing to see the Spice Girls at Wembley mentions the fact that I had previously not been a concert-going person. I had practically no experience of seeing music live and in person, but that was all set to change that year. My realisation that I could now probably cope with it all coincided nicely with the Backstreet Boys going on their huge DNA World Tour. To celebrate (and encourage) me going, we decided to go VIP and make a nice big deal of my first proper concert experience.
Except then the Spice Girls totally came in and stole the Backstreet Boys' thunder. Now it went from a first ever concert experience to back-to-back concerts in different cities. Hey, why not? If the boys can do it, so can I.
Having covered plenty of the rest of Europe already, BSB rocked up at Arena Birmingham and we were there to witness the madness. Whilst it’s a smaller venue than Wembley, I found it slightly more claustrophobic. We had standing room right next to the stage which made for an incredible view but also made the sound something slightly less enjoyable. The bass rumbled right through you to the point where a nosebleed was almost inevitable, but it was kinda worth it.
We were so close! You could see the guys, their facial expressions, their emotions, practically their thoughts as they powered through each song. Compared to the vast distance of our (still very good) seats at Wembley, it was night and day. But that also made for different experiences. I was so busy watching the boys doing what they do, I quite often forgot I was supposed to be singing along and engaging in the same way.
The Backstreet Boys back catalogue is much stronger than the Spice Girls, they have more albums and hits to choose from, to the point they had to do a super quick medley of some of the favourite ones, when each could probably have taken centre stage on their own. The set up of the concert was good, with older hits making up the bulk of the show and the newer album just being highlighted every now and again (pretty much exactly what fans want, I’d reckon?).
They had much quicker costume changes, and even kept two of the boys on stage to complete one of their changes. Never thought I’d see that much! They did succumb to doing an encore which is a facade I’m really not on board with, but their choice of songs made me forgive them a bit. They did a lot of dancing for guys in their 40s although you can tell they have toned it down a lot from previous years. Also it felt a bit weird that there was no live band. The boys have played instruments in their shows before and whilst it’s fine to opt out of that and concentrate on the show itself, to have no real instruments felt like an odd choice.
Now, I mentioned up top that we had VIP tickets to see this show. That essentially meant we had access to a lounge area which did come with a bonus glass of champagne and a free buffet (although it was fancy food when everyone knows all you want from a buffet is a sausage roll and some Pringles). It felt a little bit unorganised, or perhaps just that we should have known what we were supposed to be doing. We didn’t know where we were allowed to go or what time we should be where, but it eventually boiled down to the fact that you can do what you want, you just have access to this extra facility. And having no queue for the ladies toilets (sorry to harp on about it but it makes a difference) was almost worth the price in itself.
Comparing the two concerts seems a little unfair but seeing the two shows back to back has made it almost impossible not to do so. I have more of a history with the Backstreet Boys so I couldn’t help but enjoy their concert more. We were closer, they had a better setlist, and it was just overall a better show. But was it worth the additional cost to get so much closer? I don’t know. On the one hand, you get a wider variety of pictures and a greater view of what’s actually going on on stage, but on the other hand, I was so distracted by what was going on that as I say, I forget to lose myself in the moment.
Indoor versus outdoor was another key component. It felt like some of the sound and atmosphere was lost in the bigger venue, but equally it demanded more of you and the scale of it added a dimension that was then missing in the (slightly) smaller show. Being indoors meant you were guaranteed not to get rained on, which is always a bonus.
They were two very different experiences but thankfully neither has put me off any future concert-going. In fact, the complete opposite. I’m already lining up our next mission and signing up for ticket newsletters so as not to miss a thing.
It was a weekend that in all honesty I had been somewhat nervous about, even dreading, but now that it’s done, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and wish I could do it all over again!