If you have any sort of interaction today with a girl who either has laryngitis or responds to everything you say with a “HUH??” or a “WHAT??” there’s a pretty good chance she was at uptown Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena on Wednesday night.
More than 10,000 girls brought powerful vocal cords along with moms, stepmoms, aunts, older sisters, or (in a few rare cases) embarrassed-looking dads to a sold-out concert headlined by British fivesome One Direction, the biggest boy band since – well, since the last big boy band, the Jonas Brothers.
For 3 hours and 15 minutes, those girls screamed. And screamed. And screamed. And screamed.
They screamed for the first opening act – Manika, a teen pop singer/lip-syncher who got no louder reaction than when she asked, “Are you ready to see One Direction?”
They screamed for the second opener – Olly Murs, another Brit, who gave an energetic, flirtatious performance that no doubt won him some new teenage fans.
After Murs finished his set, the crowd waited 40 long minutes for Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson to emerge, and while waiting, they frequently got worked up into a false-alarm scream (every time a fan saw something behind the curtain that appeared to suggest the wait was over, she would start screaming, and it would set off a chain reaction).
But finally, just after 9 p.m., the lights went down, the five boys were introduced by way of a video montage, then they bounded out and ripped into “Na Na Na,” amid yet more eardrum-shredding shrieks.
Now, there’s no easy way to review a concert like this. Purists will never listen to arguments that these guys have talent, even if it’s clear the former U.K. “X Factor” finalists all can sing quite well (they can). Hardcore fans, meanwhile, won’t entertain criticism that the lack of choreography in their routines makes them look lazy (it does).
So I’ll just say this: Wednesday’s show was rarely boring.
For one, you never knew what was going to be thrown onstage. There was a bag of Reese’s Minis. A bra. An inflatable monkey. A stuffed cat. A very large pair of women’s underwear. A “Toy Story” Woody costume (which Liam put on and danced around in during “Up All Night”). Another bra. Several unidentified objects, one of which nearly hit Louis in the groin.
Also, because One Direction is just two years old and has only made one album, the 90-minute set was padded with agreeable covers like Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and a segment where it took requests from the audience via Twitter. The latter inspired all the guys to try on Southern accents (Zayn’s was the “best”), as well as an abbreviated cover of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”
Of course, the loudest squeals were saved for chart-topping hits “One Thing” and “What Makes You Beautiful,” which sent the crowd into a near-frenzy. And during the encore, “I Want,” Harry – without warning – pounced off the stage, surprising arena security and briefly causing a stampede of pink and purple and homemade “1D” T-shirts as girls raced over to try to I guess, touch him?
After the band waved goodbye and disappeared, the screaming finally stopped.
But not for long: As I was exiting into an arena stairwell, suddenly there was a commotion back inside. A bunch of girls ahead of me made a U-turn and ran back through the doors we’d just walked out of. What was going on? Who knows? All I could hear was screaming. Lots of it.