Trying to fit in when you’re a 24 year old man at a One Direction gig is a bit paradoxical: the harder you attempt to look normal, the more you stand out. I learnt thislesson the hard way while standing in the forty minute long queue to enter Allianz stadium. I was attracting a fair bit of attention from the tweens around me (not to mention their mothers) and so I foolishly decided to meet the critical gazes directed my way with a smile. It was only after I had been doing this for some time that I realized I was making matters worse: a sweaty, unshaved man standing in line for a One Direction gig all by himself is one thing, but a sweaty, unshaved man who also happens to be flashing demented grins at tweenies and their mums alike is something else.
I was feeling a little bit isolated then as I took my admittedly very good seat, and found myself in the midst of one of those weird existential dilemmas that you expect to have almost anywhere else except for in a stadium preparing to see a boy band. They’re looking at me like I’m ancient, I found myself thinking. And then: oh my God, I am ancient. Time is passing by so fast: I’m already so old; I’m dying; we’re all dying; we’re trapped in these mortal bodies that will whither and fade and …
Thank goodness, I didn’t have to mire in self-pity or existential dread for long, because the five ever punctual English pop-darlings took to the stage exactly when they were meant to, greeted by hysterical screams from the transfixed crowd.
And, almost immediately, I realized I was in the hands of some very capable performers. Although their stage banter was nothing out of the ordinary – ‘Come on Sydney, let’s make some noise!’ was repeated a great many times – One Direction are quite obviously a group of young men who have mastered the stadium performance. Rather than sticking to the stage, they walked up and down a long runway that ran through the arena, spreading their time and energy around the entire space. As a result, everyone got a good show: even those in the cheapest seats would have been granted a good view of the band.
Of them all, Harry Styles is obviously the performer who enjoys the spotlight the most: when he wasn’t waving to individual members of the crowd, he was holding his mic stand aloft, or flashing the piece sign, or generally making the assembled pre-teen hearts melt. By contrast, Zayn Malik was the most reserved: what with his Misfits t-shirt and copious tattoos, he looked like an aspiring punk singer who had somehow found himself playing with a band whose music he did not entirely dig.
But even Malik’s reticence didn’t dampen the night. The gig was a spectacle through and through, complete with fireworks, platforms that raised and then descended, and huge screens that displayed not only close ups of the band but colorful visual effects.
The songs that got the strongest reaction from the crowd were What Makes You Beautiful and One Thing; both songs were impressively performed, and resulted in some touchingly cute ‘moshing’ from the audience. For me personally however, the most impressive numbers were the ballads: songs like Night Changes and Through the Dark were genuinely moving, and showed off the assembled vocal strength of the band. Even for these slower numbers, the audience lapped up every single note: I saw a girl, perhaps no older than six, on her mother’s shoulders, mouthing the words to Story of My Life, the touching track that ended the set proper.
By the time the gig was over, all of my feelings of alienation were gone. As I walked out of the stadium, alongside the thousands of spectators, I didn’t feel out of place. The prevailing mood after all was one of community, and a shared sort of joy. People smiled at me, not the other way around, and I overheard a young girl telling her mum that what she had seen was ‘actually life changing.’ I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say this: it’s hard to argue with the talent of a band so skilled that they make even a sweaty, odd looking 24 year old fit in.
Steal My Girl
Where Do Broken Hearts Go
Ready to Run
Better Than Words
Don’t Forget Where You Belong
What Makes You Beautiful
Through the Dark
Uptown Funk (Mark Ronson cover)
Story of My Life
You & I
Little White Lies
Little Black Dress
Best Song Ever