One Direction sounded as good as four pop singers with a multi-million dollar aural-and-video production values should sound: perfect. Make that nearly perfect.
Music, Published on Thu Aug 20 2015
At the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Aug. 20
When you consider it, One Direction is the anti-boy-band boy band.
Stack them up against the earlier progenitors of poster pop pablum, whether it’s reaching as far back as the ’60s for the Osmonds and the Jackson 5, or as recently as the late ’90s watermarks Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC, and the one thing they don’t do that all the others did is . . . dance.
But the absence of slick, relentless choreography is something the 40,000 mainly female fans who packed Rogers Centre on Thursday night didn’t seem to mind, since they were sharing the same source of oxygen as their singing idols, Harry Styles, soon-to-be-baby-daddy Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and guitar-strumming Niall Horan.
In its first Toronto appearance since the fifth singer Zayn Malik abandoned ship, One Direction sounded as good as four pop singers with multi-million dollar aural-and-video production values should sound: perfect.
Make that nearly perfect.
There were some flat notes on “No Control” and “Diana” and a few other spots, especially by Tomlinson, but it’s not like the fans noticed or held them accountable for it.
Instead, they cheered their heroes as they sang each song faithfully, beginning with a fireworks-blasting “Clouds” and following it up with a streamer-shooting “Steal My Girl,” both from the group’s latest album, Four, and screamed at the tops of their lungs whenever they were asked to scream.
If there is a formula to pop music, One Direction and its group of management overseers, which includes American Idol’s Simon Cowell, have perfected it: hire a bunch of influential Swedish writers to craft tuneful three-to-four minute ditties about love, love and more love (with the occasional creative input from 1D themselves).
Then ensure that every singer in the band shares the lead and backs the rest of his pals on harmonies when he’s not singing lead and, while performing, have them walk around the stage just being themselves, with no pre-rehearsed banter, save for the occasional positioning onstage to spread the One Direction love.
Oh and the other pièce de résistance? Every time a different One Direction member grabs the microphone, have them thank their audience often and profusely, because, really, what else is there to talk about when you’re entertaining a bunch of screaming fans?
It’s this anti-approach that’s been a stroke of genius since the band first appeared at the ACC four years ago and usurped where-are-they-now headliners Big Time Rush with their humble, wide-eyed charm.
Five years later and brimming with confidence, One Direction hasn’t really refined their act as much as just become more comfortable with their talent
Roaming up and down a T-shaped stage that stretched halfway into the venue, the boys spent the better part of two hours concentrating on their past two albums, only dipping into their first for the upbeat “What Makes You Beautiful,” their second for “Little Things” and “Kiss You,” and their new single “Drag You Down” from the inevitable fifth album that will crash the charts in November.
The songs varied in pacing from power pop to ballads, with Styles, who draped himself with the Canadian flag a couple of times during the evening, seemingly taxed with the more challenging vocal motifs.
The spontaneity came mainly from onstage action: water gun fights between Payne and Tomlinson, a happy birthday serenade to 15-year-old blue-haired Jean, a Payne hug to a gobsmacked fan, Styles’ brief wander into the crowd and Horan’s sloppily improvised Riverdance during the playful Celtic romp “Act My Age.”
It all added up to keeping the disciples pretty giddy and somewhat satiated after 25 songs.
It’s inevitable that time and the fickle tastes of the public will eventually catch up and doom One Direction, but judging by the Rogers Centre audience, that moment seems far, far away.
For 40,000 fans, at least, the band is still heading in the right direction.