Peter Debruge looks on as America's favorite fivesome soars through space, rides robotic bulls, and still manages to sing on key

'N Sync, Joey Fatone, ...
Credit: 'N Sync: Preston C. Mack/ImageDirect reviews the ‘N Sync tour

‘N Sync has taken to calling its kid-tested, mother-approved confection ”dirty pop.” But if their sold out June 5 PopOdyssey concert at New Jersey’s Giants Stadium is any indication, the band’s recipe for touring is less about the bubblegum music itself than wrapping everything up in bright candy-coated packages.

Take ”It’s Gonna Be Me,” for instance, which found the playful fivesome goofing off onstage with go-karts, Nerf guns, and a full arsenal of oversize toys. Or ”Space Cowboy,” a far less geriatric endeavor than last year’s Clint Eastwood movie, which saddled the boys atop huge robotic bulls for some rodeo action.

Love them or hate them, you’ve got to admit ‘N Sync puts on a killer show. They soar above the audience’s heads, hustle down hydraulic stairways, and disappear offstage one moment only to ”magically” materialize halfway across the arena the next. The group’s two-hour-plus routine more closely resembles an extended Super Bowl half-time show than a traditional concert, so it’s fitting that the smallest venue on their 35-stop tour will be Hershey Park’s 31,000-seat football stadium.

All night long, flashing laser lights, blazing pyrotechnics, and elaborate stage props created a wild fantasy concoction mixing radio-friendly tunes and frantic exercise-video choreography with David Copperfield-style shenanigans. Halfway through one particularly gymnastic dance number, a teenage fan standing beside me turned to her friend and earnestly said, ”They are, like, SO talented.” But was she referring to their singing or the nearly infinite number of Tae Bo- worthy contortions they’ve mastered?

As you might expect, the frenzy started with a bang — or rather a ”Pop,” the lead single from their new album ”Celebrity” (in stores July 24) — and carried on strong all the way to their finale, ”Game Over” (another ”Celebrity” sighting), before wrapping with ”Bye Bye Bye.” Yet despite all the high-tech distractions, these guys are clearly the stars of their show, not to mention the stars of several miniature movies — including one featuring a forlorn, Chaplinesque Justin Timberlake — that helped fill the downtime while the band members piled on several layers of new costumes to be stripped away one at a time over the next few songs.

Judging by the thousands of glow-stick wagging teenage girls whose eager screams punctuated each peppy chorus, the crowd enthusiastically approved of the unfamiliar songs, even if it meant not being able to sing along. And it’s clear that ‘N Sync’s fan base extends beyond these enthusiastic teens, as I discovered while standing in line between a young gay couple and a middle-aged man wearing an ”I’d Rather Be Hunting” T-shirt. Or maybe that guy was just someone’s dirty pop.