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Backstreet Boys delight screaming fans with their huge reservoirs of talent

News Staff Reporter

The squeals were evident a full three hours before the Backstreet Boys took to the stage of Marine Midland Arena Sunday.

It was a gleeful anticipation building among hundreds of anxious fans who crammed into the arena lobby, ready for the quintet to work its magic on a largely teen-age and female crowd.

For those too old to get all the fuss, think back about 21/2 decades to the Jackson Five, the Osmond Brothers, and David Cassidy crooning sappy love songs to thousands of teen-age girls who would scream and go weak in the knees. More recent history would point to New Kids on the Block. It's a similar phenomenon with the Backstreet Boys.

However, don't tell that to 12-year-old Sherri Sardella of the Town of Tonawanda.

"The Backstreet Boys are way better than the Beatles or the Rolling Stones," she said.

Uh, OK. That may be an enormous leap of faith, but who's going to argue with millions of teen-age fans worldwide? Certainly not Sherri's dad, Charlie, who accompanied her and a couple of friends to the concert. "Yes, I've been told they're better than the Beatles and that they're going to change the face of rock 'n' roll as we know it," said Sardella, tongue planted firmly in cheek.

"If you had to choose between, "The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind,' and, "Rock your body,' well, the second one is the clearer choice, don't you think?" he added.

But these boys are serious business for Amy Alexander, 14, of Ellicottville, and for Laura Mendell and Kristin LaCroix, both 15, of Salamanca. Few eyes could have missed the trio in their brightly colored neon wigs that were meant to capture the collective attention of the singing pop stars.

"We're wearing these wigs so they can see us," Kristin said. "When we went to the 98 Degrees concert, they saw us and they sang, "I Do' to us. It was awesome."

The group 98 Degrees is a competitor in the current teen-idol sweepstakes and, along with the N'Sync and the Spice Girls, a mere pretender to the throne. At least that's the learned assessment of two huge Backstreet Boys fans, Maria Gandolfo and Nadine Mitchell, both 15, of Toronto.

"The Backstreet Boys are originals," said Maria, whose parents drove her and Nadine to Buffalo to see Sunday's concert.

"Unlike what everybody thinks, we're not interested in them just for their looks. They're actually good musicians, and they can dance, too," Maria added.

Of course, physical attractiveness would tend to be prerequisite for any self-respecting teen idol, and the members of this quintet - all of them in their early 20s - don't disappoint their fans in that area.

"They're the best. They're hot," said Nicole Baccanti of Webster, near Rochester.

But the Backstreet Boys possess more than good looks and huge reservoirs of talent. In recent weeks, they had become something of goodwill ambassadors in the community, with local radio and television stations sponsoring daily contests to give away tickets to Sunday's concert. One of these giveaways even raised $11,000 for Children's Hospital. And parents like them.

"They're harmless fun," said Sardella. "I'd rather have them listen to (the Backstreet Boys) than some other music out there.

Hey, and even a few guys like them. Josh Haynes, 13, of Cuba, brought his mom, Gina, and even paid for her ticket.

"Actually, I came here to look for babes, but I like some of (the Backstreet Boys') music," he confessed.

But it's the preteen and teen-age girls who will keep the boys in business for as long as they last, no matter what the venue. Before their downtown concert, the group got a rousing ovation from the sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium after surviving swirling winds to deliver a stylized rendition of the National Anthem for the Bills-Dolphins game.

"My 16-year-old daughter wanted to come to this game for one reason," grumbled one middle-aged season ticket-holder from Amherst. "To see the Backstreet Boys."

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