"Ladies and gentlemen, this ain't no boy band," the announcer exclaimed as A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys rolled onto the stage Monday at the Roxy. It certainly wasn't. McLean generated boy-band-worthy shrieks from female fans but created a rock 'n' roll mood, sporting black nail polish and eyeliner, and celebrating the night's lack of PG-propriety by cursing and being sexually provocative. But given a 90-minute set that was all over the place stylistically, he is still figuring out who he is on his own.
The performance, which showcased material from his solo debut due later this year, was only his second solo date. His band, which included four members of the Backstreet Boys' touring band as well as a three-piece horn section and two backup singers, sounded under-rehearsed. But McLean displayed winning enthusiasm and a humility remarkable for someone who has sold millions of albums and charted numerous times with his other group, which is about to embark on a European tour. He introduced each song by explaining his inspiration and giving ample credit to his co-songwriters, including sometime Backstreet Boys producer Kristian Lundin.
The set ranged from the kinetic, horn-laden sound of "Love Me Crazy" to the electro-rock vibe of "Have It All" and the earnest ballad "I Hate It When You're Gone." McLean's vocals were strong, but he sounded more like a performer than a singer expressing his own voice and personality.