Mixed emotions ran through me on Friday as I watched the men of my dreams—at least my teenage dreams—perform 20 years after their very first concert.

By Sami Kawahara

And it seems the fan base moved right along with them. A middle-aged crowd, both men and women, salarymen and mothers, gathered at the Saitama Super Arena this weekend to enjoy a blast from the past. “There’s so many obachan here!” I heard another foreigner announce as we walked into the stadium. And those obachan certainly enjoyed the concert, as the Backstreet Boys sang both old and new songs, some from their new album In a World Like This, with the fans singing along to every song without missing a beat.

Couples danced, glow sticks waved in unison, and grandmothers bobbed their heads to the beat of the Millennium album. The instrumental, a cappella set, in particular, brought everyone to life. As they sat on stage and sang their old songs while playing the guitar, we sang along to songs I’m sure fans didn’t even realize they knew by heart.

What made the concert even more enjoyable were the respect and appreciation the Backstreet Boys showed towards the fans.

“It was nice to have them try to connect with us,” Tower Records Marketing Manager, Yukiko Kanno, said. Each member spoke and would throw out words like “Sugoi!” or “Domo arigatou!”

Yukiko’s favorite part of the concert were the signs Brian held up, written in Japanese. “The signs expressed their gratitude for the years of support from the Japanese fans.” Yukiko adds, “And they were so kind to speak slower so the fans could understand. I’d never seen that before with any artists coming to Japan.”

Although ‘Backstreet Boys-in-their-prime’ ended several years back, it was still heartwarming to see that Japanese fans are forever loyal, and it’s one of the reasons why the Backstreet Boys keep returning to one of their “favorite cities in the world.”