“Quit playing games with my heart.” That’s precisely what I said (after I picked my jaw off the floor) when HITS Editor in Chief Lenny Beer asked me to fly to Las Vegas for the opening night of Backstreet Boys’ first-ever Vegas residency.

You must understand. I was eight years old when “Larger Than Life” was released as a single. It was my favorite HITClip. You remember HITClips…. The incredibly tiny digital audio player made of neon plastic that played low-fi, one-minute clips of pop songs and earned Tiger Electronics approximately $80m in 1999, thanks in large part to partnerships with the pre-teen trifecta: McDonald'sRadio Disney and Lunchables. The song fragments came on these little floppy disk-looking inserts that hung off the side of the player like charms on a bracelet. Backstreet Boys released five of those (for “I Want It That Way,” “Shape of My Heart,” “The Call,” “Larger Than Life” and “More Than That”), and I collected them all.

Now at 25, standing at the center of the ultimate adult playground—the Las Vegas strip—I got to dance to what I used to listen to on the literal playground of my childhood. By the way, rocking out to BSB has always been (and will always be) enjoyable, but being above the legal drinking age and having easy access to tequila makes it all the sweeter.

Backstreet Boys: Larger Than Life recently became the fastest-selling residency in Las Vegas history. The show takes place at Planet Hollywood’s The Axis Theater—the same venue where Britney Spears has been performing her Piece of Me residency for more than three years.

This is a big fucking deal. AJ, Brian, Howie, Nick and Kevin—now repped by Jenn Sousa at Ron Laffitte’s Patriot Management—are currently approaching their 25th anniversary as a group. That longevity is an impressive feat on its own. And then you look at the numbers; these guys have sold more than 130m albums worldwide, making them the best-selling boy band in history. And 130m doesn’t even come close to how many hearts they’ve melted in the same amount of time. They’re also the only boy band to have their first nine albums go Top 10 on the Top 200, they’ve scored seven Grammy nominations and their YouTube page boasts more than a billion views.

So, why Vegas? Because it makes perfect sense; that’s why. Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world. And if there’s one thing the Backstreet Boys know how to do better than most, it’s entertain. The idea for a residency was pitched by Live Nation, who worked with BSB on the In a World Like This Tour—the 20th anniversary tour that started in 2013, ended in 2015 and grossed $32.8m in 2014 alone (with ticket sales north of 607k). Originally, Larger Than Life was going to be delivered as nine shows over the span of three weeks, but due to high demand, nine dates became twenty-six.

  Jenn Sousa (L), Samantha Hissong and Ron Laffitte (R) with the Backstreet Boys.

The new show's energy is totally electric, and the night is packed to the brim with hits. Starting at 9pm, it really turns out to be the perfect pregame to your late-night adventures in Sin City debauchery. You're given the ultimate club experience before arriving at any of the actual clubs.

The transitions appear to be seamless (especially considering the five outfit changes), the light and laser work is irrefutably impressive and expertly timed and the choreographic routines are Broadway-esque; I feel like I got in a serious calorie-burning workout just watching the boys and their backup dancers vehemently cover every inch of that stage... (At least that's what I told myself when I stuffed my face with room service a few hours later).

“The work each of the guys have put it into this show is nothing short of impressive,” shares Sousa. “Just trying to figure out what songs to play from their 24 years together was the hard part. With the help of our creative director Raj Kapoor, I know we’ve put together a different take on a Vegas residency. We wanted it to be a non-stop party, and based on the energy and excitement from last night's crowd, I can say we delivered. We gave the fans everything they wanted this show to be, a show they traveled thousands of miles for.”

"It was so exhilarating performing on that stage for the first time," added band member Howie Dorough. "The crowd was amazing. We are so ready for Vegas. We hope Vegas is ready for us... This city is truly larger than life."

The best thing about Larger Than Life is that it doesn't pretend to be something it's not. The stage doesn't split in half, rotate and bust as many moves as the performers themselves. You don't need 3D glasses. No one’s eating fire or shooting out of a cannon. It's not Cirque Du Soleil, and thank god for that. It isn't trying too hard, thusly giving off a stench of desperation like so many other residency attempts by veteran artists. It's what you came for, it’s the party of the year, it's a Backstreet Boys concert, and the one of your dreams at that. It's also worth noting that these dudes still move and sound like they did in the '90s, which is pretty fucking remarkable.

From the moment the BSB banner drops, smoke crawls out across the floor and the quintet descends from the rafters to a wave of full-volume screams, to the closing explosion of celebratory confetti, you're hyped and loving life. Mega-fans will enjoy the smattering of home video montages and behind-the-scenes photos, as well as the treasured moments when all five of them appear in the aisles to perform amongst the crowd. What more could you ask for? New music perhaps? Well, fret not, because that too is apparently on the horizon. What other comeback-related goodies are in store? We may know a thing or two, but I'm not telling.... (Why, yes I do have the biggest, most obnoxious smirk on my face right now.) Stay tuned!

1. “Larger Than Life”
2. “The One”
3. “Get Down”
4. “Drowning”
5. “Incomplete”
6. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)”
7. “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely”
8. “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”
9. “Anywhere For You”/”Darlin’”/”Undone” **MEDLEY**
10. “As Long As You Love Me”
11. “The Call”
12. “We’ve Got It Going On”
13. “Get Another Boyfriend”
14. “More Than That”
15. “All I Have to Give”
16. “Shape of My Heart”
17. “I Want It That Way”
18. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” **ENCORE**

Who's flying high right now? Take a look. (8/5a)
The Barnett clan will be on hand when Grandpa Dick Vermeil gets his Hall of Fame jacket. (8/5a)
Available online for the first time (8/3a)
A captivating return (8/2a)
The archetypal label head (8/2a)
How they're reshuffling the biz deck.
Thoughts on a changing landscape.
It's everywhere.
Another stunning return.

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