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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Nick Carter uneasy without his Boys

March 08, 2003|Natalie Nichols | Special to The Times

The Backstreet Boys' Nick Carter shrank from larger-than-life to actual size on Thursday, bringing his own band to the House of Blues for a solo turn that uneasily adapted teen pop's stadium-ready conventions to a more intimate setting but didn't always emphasize his strengths.

Now that the bloom is off the teen-pop rose, the 23-year-old blond heartthrob needed a fresh angle to keep an audience whose interest has dwindled as it's matured. Rather than funking it up like 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake, or sexing it up like Christina Aguilera, Carter took the logical next step for his innocently impish boy-next-door persona and cultivated a slicker rock sound on his 2002 debut, "Now or Never."

Thus, the 90-minute set mostly evoked '80s-era Bon Jovi, with a dash of Limp Bizkit lite and, of course, the heart-fluttering ballads that are Carter's forte. Backed by a generic ensemble of two guitars, bass, drums and keyboards, he genuinely worked hard, eliciting squeals whenever he busted a Backstreet-style dance move, noodled on guitar or dumped water on himself and fans at the front.

Still, his grand gestures were an embarrassing-to-uneasy fit in the nightclub environment, and such up-tempo songs as "Girls in the USA" were merely cotton-candy anthems.

The ballads were better suited to his sweet tenor and sincere demeanor. Highlights included a subdued take on his solo hit "Do I Have to Cry for You?," along with an "unplugged" segment featuring such hit Backstreet ballads as "Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)," "I Want It That Way" and "Shape of My Heart." You can take the boy out of Backstreet, but you can't take the Backstreet out of the boy.

*

Nick Carter

Where: House of Blues Anaheim, 1530 S. Disneyland Drive, Anaheim

When: Today, 8 p.m.

Price: Sold out

Contact: (714) 778-2583

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