The Backstreet Boys were congregating backstage at Saturday’s Wango Tango On-Air festival when a herd of security guards nearly tumbled them.
“They were like, ‘Move out of the way, get up against the wall,'” Nick Carter recalled later, smiling and likely embellishing a bit. “And then William Hung came through.”
“Who?” Kevin Richardson asked. “Well Hung?”
Joke or not, on a bill that included Janet Jackson, Lenny Kravitz, Jessica Simpson and a dozen other acts, William Hung was the headliner.
After 14 hours of pop, rock, hip-hop, R&B and everything in between, the “American Idol” reject, dressed in a paisley disco shirt (complete with butterfly collar) and flanked by a dozen scantily clad dancers, performed his now infamous rendition of “She Bangs.”
“There’s 60,000 people here,” Hung said minutes before. “It’s huge. I’m nervous.”
Hung seemed a little overwhelmed onstage, staring blankly at the enormous monitors, but he pulled it off like a true… pro.
Backstage, when he wasn’t practicing, Hung mingled with Big Boi and the Black Eyed Peas. “I’m in William Hung’s dressing room,” JC Chasez said, before making circles with his fists a la Hung’s signature move. “She stings like a bee,” JC sang.
“It’s incredible to meet some of these people.” Hung added.
Hung, who covers “Bailamos” on his album, arrived late and missed his chance to duet with Enrique Iglesias, but the festival featured a few other memorable collaborations.
Benji and Joel Madden from Good Charlotte joined N.E.R.D. for “Jump” after Pharrell Williams and the gang opened with the one-two punch of “Rock Star” and “She Wants to Move.”
Hilary Duff, who sang the Who’s “My Generation” early on, welcomed sister Haylie for a set-closing cover of the Go-Go’s’ “Our Lips Are Sealed.”
Big Boi was without Andre 3000, but he did his best to make up for it, adding a four-piece horn section to his band and welcoming Killer Mike for “The Whole World” and Sleepy Brown for the crowd favorite “The Way You Move.”
Iglesias also brought up a guest – a fan sitting in the audience, whom he serenaded with “Hero” while she snuck in a butt squeeze.
Performing in a football stadium for the first time since the Super Bowl, Janet Jackson was fully covered but still managed to offend some fans, “singing” a mere 10-minute set that included a medley of hits and her new single.
The Black Eyed Peas followed sorry Miss Jackson with a set of party starters like “Let’s Get Retarded” and “Hands Up.” And with her remarkable abs and sultry dance moves, Fergie looked like the new Janet.
Also stealing a look from Jackson was Lenny Kravitz, whose hard-rocking set made up for his new ladylike hair style.
Jessica Simpson was a crowd favorite, pleasing the kids just by being there and treating their parents to the familiar sounds of “I Think I’m in Love With You,” which samples John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane,” and her cover of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”
Simpson countered her flashy sequined top with casual denim, the fabric of choice for most of the performers, including Clay Aiken, Duff and Chasez.
The latter spiced things up a bit for his opening number, donning the top half of a band uniform for his “Drumline” hit “Blowin’ Me Up (With Her Love).” He was quick to shed that look and sound, though, filling the rest of his set with the more organic sounds of Schizophrenic.
Maroon 5, who were introduced by Nicole Richie, and Rooney brought some local rock flavor to the bill but were as dance-friendly as anyone else. The former saved “This Love” for the end, as the girls went nuts for singer Adam Levine, a Justin Timberlake look-alike with a guitar.
After Fefe Dobson and Kimberley Locke opened the main stage, Nick Cannon performed his set on a small stage in the middle of the stadium, encouraging the early afternoon audience to get crunk.
Almost a decade after their first Wango Tango, the Backstreet Boys gave a preview of their upcoming album in the form of an a cappella song about “movin’ on.” Onstage in front of thousands of screaming girls, however, they seemed content where they were.