July 20--A substantial majority of the 15,000-plus fans who packed the sold-out Sprint Center on Friday night were girls, from pre-school age to those who looked like they may be headed to their first year in college.
Of those, 12,000 or so, nearly all spent the first hour of the One Direction show on their feet, screaming. When they weren't unleashing a deafening tide of squeals, they were singing-along, to every song. Many were waving signs, even those whose words could not be seen from the stage -- those with their backs to the wall in the upper-decks.
One Direction is a five-piece ensemble of young men from England and Ireland: Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. They are all blessed with good looks and an abundance of hair. Their brogues only accent their on-stage and on-camera charm, which borrows from the good-natured jousting the young Beatles engaged in (and the Monkees, too).
The five were encouraged to start a vocal group after all five failed individually to advance in the British version of "The X Factor," a talent-reality show. Someone's instincts were spot-on. The group is as popular as any in pop music these days. Tickets for Friday's show went on sale in April 2012; the show sold out in a few minutes. Given the reaction they got, it was worth the wait.
In 2013, the boy-band world is alive and well and, it seems, more potent than ever, given the means of communication the heartthrobs have with their armies of admirers. Friday's show was choreographed for the short-attention-span an the social-media generation. It lasted more than two hours, but it passed quickly. Save for a Q&A (via Twitter) that went on too long, the 130 minutes were rapid-paced. What the show lacked in polish, it made up for with radio-ready pop tunes and lots of motion and energy and visuals, including flashpots, smoke machines, balloons and confetti.
The boys haven't bothered to learn any formal dance routines. Instead they bounded and bounced around and across the stage, running up a ramp and sliding back down. Or they sat and posed, alone or in groups, as they sang their catch pop songs or warm ballads about love and heartache. Every song was met with a rousing ovation (screams). Some were louder than others, like "Kiss You" and "Little Things."
Behind the band, an enormous video screen broadcast plenty of visual entertainment. During one interlude, it showed a video of the band disguised in costumes, including Tomlinson, who trolls down a street dressed as a very large and older person, carrying a "Free Hugs" sign. It all ends very well.
In the second half of the show, they rode a platform over the crowd on the floor to a satellite stage at the back of the arena, where they pulled off two covers: of Blondie's "One Way or Another" and then "Teenage Kicks" by the Irish punk band the Undertones. Later, they executed another cover: "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus. The boys were backed by a live band, and during a few songs towards the end, Horan played rhythm guitar, including on "Rock Me," one of a few songs that strays from the mainstream pop-R&B style.
The encore included the pop anthem "Live While We're Young," which includes the lyrics, "We'll keep doing what we do." Given how successful the formula is working now, there's no doubt they will keep the pedal pressed to the floor, at least for the foreseeable future. They're about to release a 3-D movie. Next year, they'll release another album and tour stadiums in Europe. It seems wise. At a time when the competition for attentions is so fierce, the best tack is to feed the mania, keep them singing and screaming.
5 Seconds of Summer: The openers are a quartet of teens from Australia who play engaging power pop anthems, like "Lost Boy" and "Out of My Limit." Much of the crowd was in place for their set, and they got a great response. For a young, new band, opening gigs don't get much better than this one.
To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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