One Direction - Izod Center - 7/2/13
Better Than: My live tweets could have ever explained.
The screaming started early. The Coach bus from Manhattan to the Izod Center was filled with teens sticking on temporary tattoos, covering their arms in body paint with phrases like "I <3 Harry" and Instagramming photos to look back on tomorrow. Excitement bubbled by the entrance as young girls dragged their parents to the door. The actual arena was deafening. At this point, a feverish reaction to One Direction is to be expected. Tickets for this particular tour went on sale and sold out a year ago, so the fans had been stewing in their excitement for quite some time. But experiencing and experiencing are two different things indeed, and the reaction One Direction fans have to One Directions serves as a simple reminder of what music can make us feel, why that's so important, and how fun it is to love something so much when you're too young to understand exactly what that love means.
Louis, Liam, Harry, Zayn and Niall didn't go on stage until close to 9 p.m., but the crowd still enjoyed every moment leading up to their entrance. The pop rock outfit 5 Seconds of Summer opened for 1D, but every tween in the arena applauded and sang along as if they were the headliners. Just before the actual main act, a collection of advertisements played on each screen by the stage and featured the boys in the commercials. Each time one popped up as a talking head, it prompted a wave of emotions from the crowd and even made a group of girls in front of me feel so much that that they started crying while Harry Styles, the youngest of the five and arguably the Justin Timberlake of the group, spoke about Nabisco snacks or Claire's or whatever it is they were selling at that moment.
There are many attributes that separate One Direction from other boy bands. For starters, each one actually has a very real singing talent and they showcase this fairly equally on record and in concert. It's not like one of them exists merely to round out a dance routine, which plays into another important differentiation--they do not dance. Sure there are moments of brief, choreographed moves, but those little sets are equivalent to the types of dances friends invent at sleepovers in someone's basement and were usually only done by Louis and Niall, who often paired off and served as the show's comic relief.
Their mini-dance breaks help paint a larger picture. One Direction only provide part of the fantasy element other boy bands dole out very well, and it exists mostly in lyrics and the reality of their celebrity. Everything from the non-matching, extremely casual outfits they wear to the way they stroll around on-stage goofing off with one another and giving dorky waves to the fans fits into creating a mold for a type of reality for these girls. These are the types of boys that exist in junior high or high school--goofy, scrawny, and weird without irony or apology, but probably not as attractive as the actual boybanders. They provide a realistic mold and help pave an understanding of love, relationships, and even sex for teens still learning how to talk about all of that.
So the boys sang and strolled and flirted their way through a large selection of songs off their two albums. "Heart Attack," the pleasantly soft "More Than This," and "One Thing" were highlights of the first half of their set. The only minor hiccup was a cover of Blondie's "One Way or Another" which sounded as Kidz Bop as a song can get. Once that was over, the boys jumped back in to even more of their hits and "deep cuts" before regaining some cover cred with a throwback to the Wheatus hit "Teenage Dirtbag," complete with Niall strumming his acoustic guitar and some very '90s-esque comic book graphics in the background. Angsty '90s teen alt is a pretty good fit for the boys, and they even have their own version of it with the song "I Would."
It was a night many audience members had spent a year waiting for. An entire school year for many had probably dragged on with the anticipation for a mid-summer fling with a collection of boys who like to tell you how perfectly imperfect you are (see: "Little Things" and "What Makes You Beautiful"). The song "Summer Love" (featuring the lyrics "you always will be my summer love") felt like it could have been an apropos closer to a July night that many in that room will earnestly mark as one of their best. Of course, they're still young and so that may seem overstated. But in reality, there's no better time to feel such a way.