One Direction at NRG Stadium, 8/22/2014
Photos by Jack Gorman
One Direction, Five Seconds of Summer NRG Stadium August 22, 2014
To thrive, boy bands need the right combination of personality and passion. Good songs help too, but you can get away with decent music (at best) if the members of the group have enough charisma.
Personality goes a long way, and with enough of it people will fall head over heels for you, they'll scream themselves hoarse for you, they'll make posters for you and, most importantly, they'll spend lots and lots of money on you...or at least get their parents or legal guardians to do so. NRG Stadium saw an abundance of personality and passion under its roof Friday night, as the two biggest boy bands around and thousands and thousands of their biggest local fans spent the final Friday before school starts together.
Thanks to One Direction and Five Seconds of Summer, there are going to be a lot kids keeping quiet come Monday. Screaming wears a voice out.
Can you quantify passion? Yeah, 5 Seconds of Summer have their share of fans, but watching their performance I found myself wondering about the passion of the band members. Musically they're stronger, the songs on their debut album being stronger than some of the stuff they were playing last year, but they don't seem to be particularly interested in the songs themselves.
There may not be a person in music trying harder to be cool than Michael Clifford, what with his silly bleached hair and torn rock t-shirt, which makes it so weird that he plays his guitar in such a disinterested fashion. His lack of passion was noticeable, but made up for by the fact that drummer Ashton Irwin is extremely likable, the eventual breakout star of the group.
Still, today's teens could do worse than 5 Seconds of Summer. As mentioned, their songs aren't bad even if the performance is kind of lackluster. They've got a year before the play The Woodlands to work out the kinks in their stage demeanor.
Also, kill the covers. There's something really creepy about these dudes singing "Teenage Dream" when you think about the lyrics and the target audience.
Can you quantify personality? It's a shame there isn't a way to scientifically measure that kind of thing, because if there was then we'd have definitive proof that One Direction's Harry Styles has a superhuman amount of charisma. Dude comes off like a legit superstar, constantly aware that there are a ton of eyeballs on him and thus almost constantly entertaining.
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Styles is the rock which everything else is built upon. That's not to say that he's the star of the show -- all the boys in 1D get their turn in the spotlight, and thus all of them get their share of massive screams -- it's just that he's the one you can depend on to always give the crowd everything he has.
It is worth a mention that were it not for the fact that he's in the same group as Styles Liam Payne would probably be the most charismatic dude in pop music. Dude is also endlessly entertaining, even when his joke segments go a bit flat.
If you're wondering why this review isn't focusing more on the music, that's because the music was exactly what you expect. They have a solid band that plays as required and 1D proper are good singers. If you like their songs as they're recorded, odds are better than good that you'll enjoy them live.
Which leads to the question: can you quantify performance? The reality is that although their songs are still marshmallow soft, they have actually developed a damn good stage show. It's super simple - it's hard to go wrong with giant video screens and fireworks - but it works because the most important part of the show isn't the stage or the music: it's the fans.
When you can sell out NRG Stadium, you're not putting on a concert any more, you're putting on an event. Walking in to the stadium proper and seeing the crowd was much more impressive than anything happened onstage, no matter how enjoyable that part is. The entire situation becomes pure spectacle, and while it may not be the music that snobs and critics would like the youth of today to be passionate about, it's still pretty cool to see that many people in love with music, even if it's because they're in love with personalities.
Here's something to consider, teens and tweens, when you're sitting in class Monday morning: 15 years from now, you will probably look back at how excited you were for this night with a hint of embarrassment. It's cool; by then you'll have discovered new bands to listen and new songs to love. You'll have reinvented your musical personalities multiple times.
But don't forget about how cool this night was when you're too cool to admit that you were ever a Directioner. Because Friday night was awesome, and it was because of you.
Personal Bias: Having never gotten around to listening to Midnight Memories, there were a few songs I was hearing for the first time at this show. That said, I'll probably be giving "Little Things" and "You & I" some spins in the near future.
The Coolest Person in the Crowd: The guy in the purple body paint who knew the entire "Single Ladies" dance. I'm not normally one to support people trying to make the show about themselves, but this guy had so much spirit that I couldn't hate it.
Overheard In the Crowd:
Girl 1: If the sun was a person I'd punch it. Girl 2: That's a good idea. Girl 1: Thanks. I try real hard coming up with my jokes.
The conversation went on for another 30 seconds and it continued to be amazing.
Random Notebook Dump: In between 5SOS and 1D, there was your typical between-the-bands music. At one point 30,000 people were doing the Macarena. I'm still not sure how I feel about that.
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