When One Direction announced that a show at Ralph Wilson Stadium would be a part of its “On the Road Again Tour,” the British/Irish boy band had just been proclaimed the biggest band in the world, based on sales, streams and downloads.
But when the group rolled into the home of the Bills on Thursday, its future appeared less than assured. The March defection of singer Zayn Malik had left the group a member shy of its patented pop vocal blend, and ticket sales for the stadiums the band would be playing as its crossed America were less than most had predicted.
Perhaps 1D, as the group is known to its predominantly young and female fans, had reached its sell-by date.
Try telling that to the thousands of young 1D fans who filled the floor and lower sections of the Ralph on Thursday. For them, it seemed, One Direction’s long-awaited arrival in Buffalo was the opposite of a dying gasp. It felt like a party.
The One Direction lads – Harry Styles, (the cute and crazy one) Louis Tomlinson, (the serious one) Niall Horan, (the one with the guitar) and Liam Payne (the other one) – showed no sign of wear and tear as they took the stage at the Ralph, despite what has been an almost cruel and unusual touring schedule, since the then-fivesome was hand-picked by Simon Cowell for his X-Factor competition five years back.
This certainly didn’t seem like a show being offered by a group intent on breaking up, despite what the rumor mill has been churning out. The show felt a bit perfunctory, perhaps – a bit too professional, maybe, with songs flowing one into the next, and between-song banter following the same script it has followed throughout the tour. But the guys and their four-piece backing band didn’t skimp on energy. They gave the people what they wanted. And what they wanted was flesh-and-blood representations of their sex symbols to scream at.
Following a video montage that made the guys look like what they are in the eyes of their followers – hopelessly charming and good-looking young men with devil-may-care attitudes –the four took the stage with “Clouds,” and a fireworks display atop the Ralph could not drown out the wails of teen and tween glee. The tune itself may be nothing more than Coldplay for juniors, but no one seemed to mind. “Steal My Girl” followed, and gave the crowd an opportunity to focus on Tomlinson for a bit, as the song aped the changes penned by Journey with ’80s anthems like “Open Arms” and “Faithfully.” The song’s indelible singalong chorus afforded the guys a chance to strut their stuff on a catwalk that led all the way to the endzone opposite the stage, and they stayed for a good while, hamming it up for folks in a different ZIP code than the stage itself.
Then came obvious crowd favorite Styles’ opportunity to tell the crowd that “We’re One Direction; Our job is to entertain you, and yours is to have as much fun as possible.” Not a problem, Harry. You had ‘em at your first hair flip/hip shimmy.
“Little Black Dress” arrived as the first tune to offer what would be a them for the evening – that theme being, “Gosh, One Direction sure does love ’80s Def Leppard!” This tune hinted at what “Midnight Memories” would make blatant – one can get a lot of mileage out of Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” particularly when one’s audience wasn’t born when that song was an everywhere-at-once (and hyper-annoying) hit.
1D’s is far less processed than that of most teen-pop outfits. The guys dress in random T-shirts and skinny jeans, they boast the bed-head look, they never dance in choreographed unison, and they actually sing their own parts.
Sure, that look was likely perfected by a well-paid stylist, but the vocals? Even with Malik’s defection, these guys still hit the notes, offering stadium-rattling unison vocals and the occasional rich harmony with equal conviction and professionalism.
Will One Direction be around this time next year? Will the young girls who shrieked with delight at every toss of the mane and flip of the hip at the Ralph move on to more adventurous sounds in the coming months? Who knows?
One thing is certain: As cheesy as it sometimes was, Thursday’s show clearly provided tens of thousands of 1D fans with a night they’ll remember for a long while, or at least until college.