Let’s set the stage a little…The year is 2000. The Backstreet Boys are coming off a huge 1999 with the record-breaking release of Millennium. Shortly after, the boys went back into the studio and recorded a new record: Black and Blue. They knew with the massive success of Millennium that they needed to go big and extravagant to match the achievements 1999 had brought.
Cue the 100 hour Around the World promotion tour. BSB concocted a plan to fly all the way around the world in 100 hours, stopping on 6 continents in Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, and New York spanning a 26,000 mile trek. The boys greeted fans, did interviews, and had impromptu concerts in front of hundreds of thousands of fans.
Let’s hear directly from someone who experienced this first-hand!
BSBFG: Share your name and where you are from.
PB: My name’s Paula Bonini and I’m from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
BSBFG: What led you to becoming a BSB fan?
PB: I’ve been a Backstreet Boys fan since 1997. I became a fan when I saw the video clip for “We’ve Got it Goin’ On” on MTV Brazil. I loved the song, it’s still one of my favorites, and I thought the video clip was so cool and Kevin was SO hot! MTV Brazil and the teen magazines like Capricho were very important for the Brazilian fans at that time because the internet wasn’t a thing yet in my country. I remember watching their performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards 1997 and it was very special for me.
BSBFG: How did you hear about the Around the World Event? What do you remember about the promotion for it?
PB: It’s important to say that the Around the World event in Rio in 2000 was the very first time the Backstreet Boys came to Brazil as a group and the fans had been waiting for a long time. It seemed like they didn’t know they had fans in my country because they went to Chile and Argentina in 1998 and completely forgot about Brazil.
Howie came to Brazil by himself later in 1998. He did many interviews, went to some TV shows, and was on the cover of many teen magazines. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see him because I didn’t live in Sao Paulo at that time and I only knew about his visit when he actually got here. It was sad because I wanted to see him so badly, so I promised myself that I would not miss the chance to see the Backstreet Boys when they came to my country.
The promotion for the Around the World Tour was very different because the internet was becoming popular in my country. In 1999 I created a Backstreet Boys fan club that lasted more than 10 years and I also started using the internet, so I’d check on their website everyday. I was also part of many Backstreet Boys fan groups on Yahoo Groups where the fans shared a lot of news and photos. And of course, MTV Brazil was still very relevant and showed many videos of the Backstreet Boys in Stockholm, Tokyo, Sydney and Cape Town. There were many teen magazines at that time and they all promoted the event.
The editor from Capricho magazine was on the plane with the Backstreet Boys, she went from Cape Town to Rio with them and after that the magazine released a special edition about the 100-hour tour.
The radio stations were also very important and helped with the promotion, they actually chose some fans to meet the boys.
Their record company in Brazil released their schedule to some fan and she shared with everyone else, so we knew exactly what the Backstreet Boys were going to do and some fans from Sao Paulo organized an excursion to Rio.
BSBFG: Share your experience going to this event? Where was it? How long were you there? What do you remember?
PB: I’m originally from upstate Sao Paulo, so I went first to the state capital and there I met the fans for the first time and we went to Rio together. In total it took me nine hours to get there, I arrived the night before the event. I spent that night at the airport running from one terminal to another just in case they would arrive a little bit earlier. To be honest I didn’t trust the schedule too much, but it was actually pretty accurate.
On the morning of the day of the event, there were so many fans there and things started to get crazy…before they even arrived. The security guards couldn’t control the fans so I knew the Backstreet Boys wouldn’t stop to say hello to us, so I decided to go to the hotel where they were going to perform that night (Le Meridien Hotel). The Backstreet Boys only arrived in Rio at 4 pm.
I arrived at Le Meridien Hotel at 10 am and the show only started at 10 pm, but there were already a lot of fans there. At night, there were 22 thousand people in front of the hotel to see the Backstreet Boys. It was INSANE!
I remember it was pretty hot that day (33 °C) and since I’m from São Paulo I wasn’t used to that kind of weather so when I got back home, I was dehydrated and I had to see a doctor, “but still I have to say I would do it all again, just want you to know” LOL. But I also had a lot of fun because there were many radio stations there and they played the Black & Blue album all day and everybody sang along, it was beautiful.
When the boys arrived at the airport there were three buses waiting for them and there were also many fans in taxi cabs and cars ready to follow them. It was a holiday in Rio so the traffic should’ve been calm, but it was chaos because of the Backstreet Boys! They were supposed to do some sightseeing on their way to the hotel but it was impossible because they were being interviewed by a reporter from a TV channel that did some specials about the event. Gugu Liberato, the TV host, was actually hosting the event at the hotel and there was also a chopper following the bus and filming everything. They did a pretty good job covering the event, I still get goosebumps every time I watch it.
When they were still at the airport, they met some fans from Latin America (Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela and of course Brazil). Each one of them brought something from their country to give to them.
When they were near the hotel, a lot of fans started running after the bus, I stayed where I was because I was afraid of not being able to go back to the same place, but it was crazy, I thought I was going to be trampled upon. When they arrived, I could only see the back of the bus so I didn’t really see them. I was so bummed and tired I started crying, I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day and the heat was unbearable.
When they got off the bus, there were 30 security guards protecting them so they could enter the hotel, it was so crazy that some of the boys actually forgot their personal belongings there, like wallets. A woman from their record company had to go back to the bus to get their things.
They went to the rooftop of the hotel and Gugu Liberato, the TV host I mentioned before, interviewed them: Nick said he was obsessed with Rambo and that he was very close to his mom, Howie spoke Spanish and AJ showed his tattoos. At 9 pm they had a press conference, there were 250 reporters from all over the world there. After that they met some lucky fans who had won some radio contests.
At 10 pm they went to the fourth floor where there was the pool and also an improvised stage where they performed a short concert. When they got on stage many fans passed out, but thank God I didn’t, although I was very emotional. The first song they sang was Don’t Wanna Lose You Now and then Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), All I Have To Give, I Want It That Way, Time and Shape of My Heart. They only stayed 10 hours in Brazil and sang only six songs but it was so special. When they sang Time I started crying and just couldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe my dream was finally coming true.
I’ll never forget that day. I was only 16 years old, it was the first time I traveled out of my state and it was the first time I saw my favorite band in my country! The Backstreet Boys took me out of my comfort zone, because of them I traveled, met new people, experienced new things, and learned English. Because of them I have amazing memories of my teenage years.
Shape of My Heart is the song that defines that day to me, the radio stations played it all day and to this day every time I hear that song, I get emotional.
BSBFG: How did this event shape your view of the boys (individually and as a group)?
PB: Before they left, Kevin promised they would come back for a concert in 2001 and guess what? They did! Whenever Kevin comes to Brazil and promises something, he delivers! That’s why I know I can always trust his words.
The 100-Hour Tour was important for all the Brazilian fans because that day the boys found out they have a lot of fans here. We made history; the boys never experienced anything like that again. It was like the Beatlemania, actually a lot of people used to come to me and tell me they experienced the same thing with the Beatles back in the day and I was fortunate to experience the Backstreet Boys mania when I was a teenager. After they came here, Brazil became even more obsessed about them.
BSBFG: Have you ever had any similar experiences with BSB or any other celebrity?
PB: I only had that kind of experience with the Backstreet Boys. I like other bands too, but thank God I’m only crazy about them! LOL. In 2001 they came back to Brazil and I camped out on the street for two weeks for the Black & Blue tour concert in Sao Paulo, that was another memorable experience! I went to all their tours in Brazil: 2000, 2001, 2009, 2011, 2015 and 2023. The Unbreakable Tour is very special to me because I finally met them in 2009, it was my first meet & greet. I also saw them in other countries: Chile, USA, and England.
I have many memories from these 26 years of being a fan: I went to some after parties, I stayed at the same hotel as them where I saw Howie a little tipsy and dancing lambada at a pool party, I followed Nick through the streets of Sao Paulo, I stayed day and night in front of many hotels to see them and I met fans from all over the world.
Once in a lifetime experience! Thanks Paula for sharing your experience!