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One couldn’t help but chuckle to themselves as they walked into the concert at the Compaq Center for what has been billed as a "smaller, more intimate" tour for *Nsync. Holding over 20,000 people, though notable quite a few less when setup for concerts, the Compaq Center was definitely not what most of us would call intimate, but for those who last saw them from a nosebleed spot in the cavernous Astrodome were quick to thank the ticket gods for giving them a chance to see actually see their favorite member, be it Lance, Chris, JC, Joey or Justin, instead of 5 moving dots.
Feeling like an outsider at this concert was definitely something I expected, but I never dreamed how out of place I would actually be. Amongst a sea of high school and below aged kids, I knew I was one of the few adults at this concert who didn’t have a child to supervise.
With this in mind, I took my seat and tried to not seem too awkward to the legion of adoring *Nsync fans in my section. They came prepared. Everyone had light sticks and signs, which made the dark Compaq Center glow, like a lake reflecting the light of 10,000 fireflies. For a moment, I felt a peace, much like one would feel if they were sitting by a flowing brook, but then came a few isolated screams as third-wave ska survivors, Smash Mouth, took the stage.
I couldn’t help but sit in awe as the band came out with real instruments and played as a band. I knew they were playing on this night, but they definitely would look as awkward as me amongst these fans, who weren’t accustomed to seeing musicians with instrument. Surprisingly enough, the girls screamed as they played the Monkees’ Believer, which was one of the bands themes from the Shrek soundtrack.
When the band went into their older material, like Beer Goggles, the pre-teens took the chance to hit the doors and shop the merch booths and snack shops. However, the adults who remembered when Smash Mouth was a ska/rock powerhouse in the mid-90s, stuck around to relive a little of their youth, but that all came crashing down as, like homing pigeons, the kids came back to hear the bands official anthem, All-star.
Smash Mouth has done the impossible, they evolved to meet the coming changes in the fickle 90s music scene and have found a new audience, even if that audience is 13 and under, they have stayed alive, which few bands from that era can say.
After a relatively short break, the set was getting close to beginning. Everyone was surprised at the lack of props. In fact, there were none, except for various pyro turrets around the stage. The stage was definitely a take off of the Bon Jovi “Slippery When Wet” tour set up, with a pit in the middle of the stage, but wasn’t heart shaped. More recently it could be compared to U2’s recent set-up.
As the venue went dark, a videotaped interview with the men of *Nsync came on. The message of the interview, being humble and feeling lucky for their position, was lost in the screams of 15,000-plus young girls. I was more excited to see an actually backing band on the stage than I was with seeing the group on a video screen, but I guess that is old age catching up with me.
As the band came up through the floor of the stage, the screams exploded and the music began. *Nsync utilized the full potential of the stage, at time abandoning their choreographed line dancing to touch the girls in the audience and whisper sweet nothings to them.
The young ladies ate up this cheesy behavior as they screamed loudly. Some who were lucky enough to actually touch a member of *Nsync broke out into tears, which I only though happened on Michael Jackson videos.
I was surprised by the caliber of songs the band came out with. Opening with Do Your Thing, then doing Bye, Bye, Bye followed by It’s Going To Be Me, they left few hits unused on this night. The audience ate it up and squealed in delight to show their approval.
For a while, the group lost some of the kids, who wanted to hear some of the groups more obscure singles, as they went into a covers section of the set. Having a catwalk from down from the ceiling, the men of *Nsync danced their way through Beatles covers, She Loves You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, Hey Jude and Twist and Shout, all the way to a stage they had set up above the rear soundboard.
Once at the rear soundboard, dressed in suits, they lined up at their mics in true Motown style to pay tribute to the Temptations on My Girl and The Way You Do the Things You Do. Then, they went a step too far with a cover of Christopher Cross’ Sailing, which was hideous. The nod to the past was definitely respected by the audience, though most of them would have rather heard original songs.
Judging from the crowd’s reaction after the show, some were blown away, but the seasoned *Nsync concert veterans were not overly excited by the tribute to the past or the stripped down stage. In the end, everyone got something, the young parents got to remember when Smashmouth rocked, the older parents remembered when the radio was filled with the original pop sound and the youngsters got their fill of current day pop from *Nsync. Love it or hate it, they are all significant and all fun to see.