One Direction at Toyota Center, 7/21/13

No press photography was allowed in Toyota Center Sunday, but this is what One Direction looked like in Miami.
No press photography was allowed in Toyota Center Sunday, but this is what One Direction looked like in Miami.
Photos by Cal Aurand

One Direction, 5 Seconds of Summer Toyota Center July 21, 2K13

One of the great and terrible truths of pop music is that every trend comes back again. Knowing that, the current interest in boy bands past and present should come as no surprise. If you can get four or five good-looking guys who can harmonize to push their solo ambitions aside long enough to put out an album, there's a chance you can make some serious money.

Last year One Direction were playing out in The Woodlands, but they were so popular they were able to book Sunday night's date at the Toyota Center a year in advance. After months and months and a few more months of waiting, it was finally time for Houston Directioners to see the five lads from Britain live and in person. This is our breakdown of the night.

6:51 p.m.: Ticket in hand I now face an important choice: which line will I pick to get in to the venue? Going to the right means choosing order- the line is long but it's organized, which is to say it looks like a line. Going to the left means choosing chaos- there's not so much a line as there is a horde of folks very politely trying to storm the gates. I choose order because it at least offers me the illusion of progress.

7:15 p.m.: The corporate sponsor for this tour is a snack company that makes a bunch of products I like. I'll spend the next four hours hoping there are free snacks after the show.

7:40 p.m.: I'm still finding my seat when the lights go down and 5 Seconds of Summer prepare to take the stage. The roar of the crowd is so loud that it's painful. I'm so glad I brought earplugs.

7:45 p.m.: You know how in teen comedies they occasionally throw in a punk character? 5SOS look and sound exactly like what Hollywood thinks teen punk bands look and sound like.

8 p.m.: They have a song about being in the friend zone, and I'm almost certain that's the first time I've heard that phrase used in a song. Then they go in to a pretty good version of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and I find myself almost liking them.

8:10 p.m.: All told, 5S0S are not bad. They need to get away from the "letting different guys sing lead on different tracks" thing, but they could eventually be a serviceable blink-182 clone.

8:25 p.m.: They're running commercials in between the opener and the headliner. I've seen the same Claire's commercial 4 times. This is because I complained about ads at concerts isn't it?

8:40 p.m.: The last song before the lights go out? "Single Ladies." That's funny, given how this week started.


...and this is New York City.
...and this is New York City.

8:45 p.m.: After a video that lets us know that the guys in the group are wacky because they'll jump in to a pool with their clothes on, the show starts with "Up All Night." The initial scream when they appear onstage isn't as loud as I thought it would be, but maybe these earplugs are really good.

8:47 p.m.: The subject of the first talk break of the show? Hair, both head and chest.

9:05 p.m.: I'm fascinated by the group's onstage chemistry. To my surprise, there are no synchronized dance routines, which gives the show just a hint of chaos that is somewhat refreshing in the world of modern pop performances. I also kind of dig the fact that they're all trying to make each other crack up mid-song.

9:07 p.m.: Even though the crowd knows all the words to all the songs, it isn't until "One Thing" that we get a real big crowd singing moment. Everyone seems real happy to be there.

9:12 p.m.: They run backstage for the customary changing of costumes, which in this case means putting on new T-shirts.

9:15 p.m.: They attach themselves to their mike stands via a cable and then begin floating above the crowd. Seems way more safe, and therefor less interesting, than when Beyonce did it earlier this week. Of course, the people around me are in tears as they pass overhead, so it's possible I'm wrong on this one.

9:20 p.m.: Harry Styles, the aloof/popular one of the group, is talking to the crowd again. He's very likeable for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. It's like he really cares about the fans while being completely indifferent to being famous. As I type this they perform the safest version of "One Way or Another" in history. It's marshmallow-soft.

9:28 p.m.: They stop to take questions from Twitter. This is a very social-media-friendly show. The highlight of the segment is an imaginary trip to Subway which leads to one of the members of the band being upsold from the medium drink to a large.

9:38 p.m.: In the last 12 months second stages and flying above the audience have become really pedestrian. #concertreviewerproblems

9:50 p.m.: They show a video of them wearing costumes doing hidden camera bits in London. They're no Monkees, but it's cute enough. They hit the stage wearing new t-shirts. I wonder what their laundry bill is like.

10:04 p.m.: Harry attempts to get the crowd to scream "We have a problem" after he says "Houston." It sounds more like "Weoaisdufoaisdfaoboihlem." Then they sing "Teenage Dirtbag" because life is often confusing and absurd.

10:23 p.m.: The main set ends with "Kiss You" and a very underwhelming streamer shooting. That's a shame.

10:26 p.m.: After a few minutes of pre-encore screaming from the fans (earplugs rule), the band return wearing the same T-shirts but now sporting cowboy hats. Harry spends all of "Live While We're Young" dancing like an extra in Oklahoma. Good to know some Texan stereotypes are globally known.

10:30 p.m.: Before singing "What Makes You Beautiful" to send the crowd home happy, we get one last bit of stage banter. It's kind of crazy to think that the fans who are at this show got their tickets a year ago and still managed to be as pumped up and excited as they were tonight. And to One Direction's credit, for the fans it was worth the wait. The songs might not be masterpieces, but they can bring the goods live and they give the fans everything they want. I dig it, even if I don't dig it.

10:37 p.m.: I take my earplugs out as the song comes to a close. All I hear is bass drum and white noise. So. Loud.

10:30 p.m.: There are snacks. I have cookies. This rules.

Personal Bias: If you put a gun to my head -- and I don't know why you would, but this is my hypothetical, so just nod and smile -- before the show and asked me to pick a side in the great boy band war of 2k13 I would probably have picked The Wanted.

The Crowd: Teen and preteen girls and the parents/older siblings who love them. And one 13-year-old in a "Gangsta rap made me do it" shirt. I'm sure Ice Cube appreciates her support.

Overheard In The Crowd: Deleted Scene, 6:57 p.m.: Scalper: You guys need tickets? A Man With A Family: How much? Scalper: $150 per ticket. A Man With A Family (what he says): $150 per ticket? A Man With A Family (what he means): That's a great deal! What I Write In My Notebook: I'm in the wrong business.

Random Notebook Dump: Some scalpers came down from Dallas to try and make some money at the show. To try and keep things cool between them and the Houston scalpers, they claimed everything they learned about the game came from the Houston folks. Houston rules.

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