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Photo: LFO | Emily Yahr, The Washington Post | The mall is a place where time stands still, where the whiff of floral fragrance mists at Bath & Body Works or the butter-soaked goodness at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels can instantly take you back to a simpler time – perhaps as a teenager, when your biggest concern was whether to spend your allowance on butterfly hair clips from Claire’s or a rhinestone tee from the Limited Too. And on Saturday afternoon at Westfield Montgomery mall in Bethesda, Md., excited fans yearning for that time travel showed up to be transported.

Thankfully, a coifed group of men were up to the task: the members of the Pop 2000 Tour, a traveling rotation of 1990s and early-2000s boy bands. Society has rarely let the boy bands rest. Get back to work, our nostalgia-obsessed world told the baggy-jean-wearing, platinum-blond-highlighted pop superstars who consumed our culture and sold tens of millions of albums two decades ago. For the most part, they have acquiesced to the demand over the past 10 years, with new albums, TV appearances, tell-all memoirs and podcasts, but especially reunion tours.

This latest set of dates on the Pop 2000 Tour kicked off on the lower level of the mall outside Nordstrom, and everyone recognized the strange and full-circle nature of the situation.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve performed in a mall, but this brings back a ton of nostalgia,” 98 Degrees star Jeff Timmons, 49, told the crowd, many women in their 30s and 40s. Timmons co-hosted the hour-plus concert with Chris Kirkpatrick, 51, also the lone representative of his band, ‘N Sync.

“Jeff Timmons, he’s still got it,” Kirkpatrick said admiringly after Timmons belted out solo renditions – with a vocal backing track – of two of his group’s biggest smashes, “Because of You” and “I Do (Cherish You).” Gesturing to Timmons’s muscles on display in a pink button-down, Kirkpatrick said: “This is what happens when you don’t eat carbs.” He then addressed himself, arm in a sling after shoulder surgery that he joked was due to old age: “This is what happens when you do eat carbs.”

The audience screamed its approval throughout the show, anchored by the highly energetic O-Town, the Orlando-based group built on ABC’s “Making the Band” fame factory in 2000. Erik-Michael Estrada, Dan Miller, Trevor Penick and Jacob Underwood, all in their early 40s, all in coordinated pink-accented outfits, led the crowd through singalongs of their hits “Liquid Dreams,” “All Or Nothing” and “We Fit Together,” as well as medleys of Boyz II Men, Shawn Mendes and, for some reason, multiple Chainsmokers songs.

“I think it’s definitely surprising to see the fans react the way they do still, but I think it’s far more surprising to see their children react the way they do now,” Estrada said in an interview before the concert, which did have young kids of millennials bopping along. “It’s incredible to see the power of music and see how that can translate over decades.”
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Photo: LFO

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