Nick Carter performance at Maxwell’s brings back teen romance


Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros
Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

On Thursday, Nov. 10, Nick Carter’s tour bus was spotted pulling into Maxwell’s Concerts and Events in Waterloo.

The 36-year-old pop star added a show in Waterloo to his tour list, much to the excitement of anyone who is and was a die-hard Backstreet Boys fan.

I have to admit, I was very confused when I heard that Nick Carter was playing a show in Waterloo. The Backstreet Boys first toured in 1996 and quickly became one of the most popular boy bands in the world, next to N’Sync. In the late ‘90s and early 2000’s, Nick Carter was in a group that could sell out a massive stadium in a matter of seconds.

And now he’s playing at a small venue in Waterloo? “Washed up” was all I could think when I saw this show advertised.

I was always too young to see Nick Carter in concert in the Backstreet Boys’ hey-day. My older sister’s bedroom was plastered with boy band posters when we were growing up, so obviously, as a typical little sister, I followed suit. I didn’t love the Backstreet Boys because their music was good, I loved them because I wanted to be cool like my big sister and I loved them because every other young girl in the early 2000’s did.

They were performers. They were charismatic. They were dreamy.

As “washed up” as I thought Nick Carter at 36 may be, I was not going to miss my opportunity to see a Backstreet Boy live, even if it was a solo gig. But, as someone who generally only goes to heavier rock shows, I wanted to see Carter (from an adult viewpoint) more so for the element of nostalgia than for the love of his music.

The venue was packed, which was to be expected. As an all-ages event, the crowd was diverse. There were middle-aged women, university students and even pre-teens with their parents. The energy was high as the lights dimmed and the crowd roared as Nick Carter came out on stage.

He opened with a song off his solo album. Much to my surprise, it was heavier than I expected. Carter was even playing guitar alongside his band.

His solo stuff wasn’t at all like the pop-anthems the Backstreet Boys performed in the new millennium. It was more pop-rock, pop-punk, even.

As the show progressed, I found myself becoming more and more surprised. He sounded fantastic and he looked amazing. Even at 36, he’s still the dreamboat of the Backstreet Boys.

His stage presence was outstanding, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise. After all those years of touring with a boy band and learning choreographed dance moves, I should have expected Carter to be constantly flirting with the crowd. And boy, did he ever.

The crowd boomed as he took a break from songs off his solo album and sang Backstreet Boys hits like, “Incomplete,” “As Long as You Love Me” and “The Call.” The whole crowd, including myself, was belting along.

But then, something interesting happened.

Carter left the stage for about five minutes without explanation. His band continued to play during this absence.

Carter finally came back out and explained that he was losing his voice and that he didn’t want to end the show early. My heart sank. He had only played for about 30 minutes.

He said he would continue the performance, but that there was the chance that his voice could crack. He then joked that he sounded like a ‘90s grunge singer. His band, in response, started playing the intro to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.

Yes. Nick Carter covered “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

And you know what? It was really fucking good.

Because he was losing his voice, he had the low huskiness of Kurt Cobain. He didn’t change the song, either, like some performers do when they cover popular songs. He didn’t try to make it his own and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Following “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” he also covered Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” another song that couldn’t have been further from the Backstreet Boys’ style. He also covered Oasis’ “Wonderwall,” a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

I didn’t expect him to pull out these classic 90’s rock tunes, but then I realized, just because his band was a pop boy band doesn’t mean that when Nick Carter was a teenager in the ‘90s, he didn’t immerse himself in all of the wicked music that was produced in that decade.

Even with a sore throat, he continued to play for nearly a two hour set with high energy and seductive dance moves.

For the encore, of course he performed “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).” Although this song relies on all five members, he still did the song justice performing alone. Every single person in the room was singing along.

I’m pretentious when it comes to music. I don’t have respect for performers who rely on heavy sound editing, songwriters and extravagant lights to make them appear to be more talented than they really are. That’s what I expected a Nick Carter show to consist of.

Not only was Nick’s vocal performance strong, but his band was also impressive. While he introduced them, they each played a short solo, proving that they weren’t just a paid-to-play generic back-up band.

They seemed to have musical cohesion — the kind of “togetherness” that you see in a band that has been playing together for years.

Live music is a chance to test the artist and Nick Carter passed the test. This was, hands down, the most diverse show I have ever been to. Not only was I brought back to being eight-years-old, singing along to Backstreet’s Back playing on my boom-box, but I was so pleasantly surprised with how talented Carter actually is.

Without the heavy marketing, without the choreography, without his four brothers standing beside him in matching white suits, Nick Carter is a talented musician. He just had to be stripped down at a local venue for me to believe it.

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