One Direction’s headlining gig Monday night at Madison Square Garden, the British boy band’s first, was less of a proper concert and more of a victory lap from a banner year. A 90-minute plus set of the boys singing their hits as well as fan favorites like “Tell Me A Lie,” “Kiss You” and “Save You Tonight,” the show felt “almost like the biggest showcase you’ve ever been to last night,” Rob Stringer, chairman-CEO of Columbia Records said the morning after.
The show also doubled as a prelude to One Direction’s fan convention in New Jersey Tuesday, where fans from more than 35 countries around the world were flown in as part of a Golden Ticket package. To those fans as well as the thousands of screaming girls from all over the tri-state area, Monday’s show was as intimate as a sold-out gig at Madison Square Garden could get. The low-key stage was outfitted with an extensive runway that allowed the boys to high-five the crowd and serenade fans directly from all corners. Harry, Liam, Louis, Zayn and Niall even sat down at the stage’s edge at one point to sing “Little Things,” their current, acoustic single — complete with co-writer Ed Sheeran, who also opened the show.
Further contributing to the night’s interactive vibe was a mid-show Twitter Q&A, where the band answered questions that ranged from the ear-piercing (“Who has the loudest section?” Answer: Niall) to the athletic (“Who can jump the highest?” Answer: Zayn, who cheated by jumping atop a runway) to the silly (“Who can cluck like a chicken?” Answer: Harry, who does an impressive poultry impression). All the excitement made the crowd’s collective screams come in waves, so loud and layered that it occasionally sounded like a legion of locusts as much as it did pubescent girls.
Although much of One Direction’s success is due to the combination of their “X Factor” exposure in the UK, their good looks and their savvy ability to harness social media, it’s easy to overlook that many of their songs are actually quite solid. As written by the trio of Swedes Carl Falk, Rami Yacoub and Savan Kotecha, two Swedes and an American, pop anthems “Live While We’re Young,” “One Thing” and the massive “What Makes You Beautiful” are designed to bounce off stadium walls. Kelly Clarkson-penned rocker “Tell Me A Lie” is particularly strong live in a more minor key that recalls “Since U Been Gone,” and “Little Things” is an ideal choice for their first sensitive ballad to be released as a single in the States — complete with racy-when-you-think-about-them lyrics about memorizing the dimples in a girl’s lower back. Even if the boys themselves don’t do any of the dance moves like the late-90s Backstreet Boys/’N Sync movement that preceded them, the emphasis on live vocals only benefits them (particularly the melismatic chops of the under-rated Louis) and doesn’t even bring concerns of lip-syncing.
And in case Madison Square Garden had had its fill of squealing for the week, the venue was only warming up for what is sure to be the loudest event of the year — Z100’s Jingle Ball on Friday, featuring performances from 1D, Sheeran, Taylor Swift, fun., The Wanted, Cher Lloyd, Olly Murs and the one act whose fans could out-shriek 1D’s — Justin Bieber.