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Concert review: One Direction

SINGAPORE – A few of my colleagues sniggered or gave me those “oh poor you” smiles when they learnt that I was going for the One Direction concert. Who can blame them? I’m a middle-aged man with a bulging gut; and One Direction’s fan-base is made up of well, mostly female tweens, teens, young adults and a smattering of women over 40, mostly mums, I suspect, of aforementioned tweens, teens, etc. And frankly, I found the songs derivative, contrived at times, and nothing to shout – or scream, as the case may be – about.

Concert review: One Direction

One Direction's concert at the National Stadium.

SINGAPORE – A few of my colleagues sniggered or gave me those “oh poor you” smiles when they learnt that I was going for the One Direction concert. Who can blame them? I’m a middle-aged man with a bulging gut; and One Direction’s fan-base is made up of well, mostly female tweens, teens, young adults and a smattering of women over 40, mostly mums, I suspect, of aforementioned tweens, teens, etc. And frankly, I found the songs derivative, contrived at times, and nothing to shout – or scream, as the case may be – about.

The turning point came when I saw their Comic Relief video (where they performed their “teenage kicks” version of Blondie’s One Way Or Another), the Morgan Spurlock documentary This Is Us, and their music video for Best Song Ever. I still didn’t think too much of the music, but I could see that these were guys who just wanted to have fun; and they reminded me – just a little bit - of The Beatles. The Mop Top era Beatles, who were just four guys who wanted to have fun - with music.

One Direction had that same boyish charm and humour. They took their music seriously, but they didn’t take themselves seriously. I mean, This Is Us could have been an update of A Hard Day’s Night. (Cue: Sound of “real music” fans groaning in unison.) But I also know that videos only show the best bits. A live show is when musicians really show their mettle. I wanted to see first-hand what the fuss was all about. After all, millions of fans around the world can’t all be wrong, right?

So there I was, standing in the National Stadium, steering well clear of the fans crushed up to the barriers near the stage, causing the stadium security guys a little worry. Time and again, they had to escort fans to the rest area to recover from dizzy spells – and this was even before One Direction made their appearance. (Mind you, fans had been gathering since morning and had spent all day outside the stadium, so I can understand their being a little faint.)

For the album notes of The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl, producer George Martin said the sound made by the screaming Beatles fans was akin standing next to an airliner as it took off. I daresay it’s the same with the fans at a One Direction gig. But perhaps, thanks to the cavernous structure of the stadium, it’s comparable to the sound made by two airliners.

There’ll be those who will pick on the fact that they came out much later than the stipulated 8pm timing on the ticket but I’ve been to concerts where the act came on at 9.30pm (isn’t that right Ms Janet Jackson?), so waiting some 45 minutes was fine by me. The crowd was obviously raring to go, singing along to the songs played over the PA before the show (Beyonce’s Single Ladies, the Grease soundtrack, etc). Then the lights went down, the screams went up and away we went.

One Direction filled the show with several tunes from their new album, Four, among them Steal My Girl, Ready To Run, Stockholm Syndrome and Where Do Broken Hearts Go, interspersed with older material including Midnight Memories, Don’t Forget Where You Belong, What Makes You Beautiful and One Thing. The acoustic problem at the National Stadium that some had complained about at previous concerts wasn’t apparent to me. Or perhaps, I was just standing too close to the speakers (in order to hear the music above the screams). Their quieter numbers worked a lot better than I’d expected too, nicely showcasing their harmonies, particularly on Night Changes.

One Direction had a natural ease on stage and an easy rapport not just with the fans, but with themselves (the kind that can only be gleaned from being friends); and their songs, let’s face it, are rather catchy. You can’t not sing along (unless you’re a real Grinch). For the fans - aka Directioners - One Direction could do no wrong. The group had to stop the show a couple of times to ask fans to move back from the barriers, as the fans right up front were really feeling the brunt of the crush - and the fans did so promptly. When the boys - Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Zayn Malik and Niall Horan – asked the fans to scream, they did. When the boys asked them to sing Happy Birthday for a member of the road crew, they did. When they asked them to clap rapidly (for Girl Almighty), they did. They even screamed when Louis asked John the music director to describe the concert experience in 15 words.

John hollered: “Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, Singapore, you are amazing!” Yes, it was a cop-out, but the fans screamed anyway. And screamed. And screamed. Those who see a glass half-empty would say it was deafening. But I have to say it was great to hear that exuberance. It was just a nice thing to behold: Everyone enjoying themselves at the same place at the same time. During a time when there seems to be so much upheaval in the world as well as at home, there are few opportunities for people to really let loose en masse. Lucky for us then, that One Direction’s concert was one of those things.

Was it the best show ever? Not in my opinion – I mean, I can name a few concerts I’ve seen that were better – Radiohead, A-mei, Flaming Lips, Jacky Cheung, Smashing Pumpkins, Jay Chou, REM, Beck, Kasabian, Oasis … okay maybe it’s a bit more than “a few” – but there’s something so, well, fun about this show that even I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. After the show ended, I was whistling a 1D earworm as I made my way out. (And no, it’s not what you’re thinking, unless you’re thinking Best Song Ever, then yes, it was.)

 

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