They came to PNC Music Pavilion to scream, and scream they did.
They screamed for girl group Hey Violet’s short but sweet opening set, screamed during a brief downpour, and – while waiting for Wednesday night’s headliner – screamed some more: upon the appearance of a roadie, anytime anyone adjusted the brightness of any particular floodlight, at the start of every new song that came over the loudspeaker.
And then 5 Seconds of Summer walked onto the stage.
Frankly, beyond a certain decibel level, all screaming starts to sound the same. I can’t say whether the shrieking at the One Direction concert was more deafening than the screeching at the Justin Bieber show, or that the yelling for Miley Cyrus aggravated my tinnitus more than the squealing for Taylor Swift.
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But to give you a sense of what the amphitheater sounded like when 5SOS emerged, simply take a pair of No. 2 pencils, jam them point-first into your ear canals until only the erasers are visible, then find the part in “Halloween” where Jamie Lee Curtis screams and play it on 15,000 TV sets at the same time.
That’s the bad news, especially for the hundreds of exhausted-looking parent chaperones who peppered the nearly sold-out/nearly all-female crowd at PNC. (Actual text I spied on the iPhone of the mom sitting in the row ahead of me: “I wish I was home watching TV. I won’t be able to hear for the next few days.”)
The good news? 5 Seconds of Summer – that being Aussies Luke Hemmings, Michael Clifford, Calum Hood and Ashton Irwin – is far more musically gifted than One Direction; far more charming than Justin Bieber; far more presentable than Miley Cyrus; and far more... well, can I just say there are far more of them than there are of Taylor Swift?
What I appreciate about this so-called “boy band” is that they’re actually a band. In live form, Hemmings and (moreso) Clifford are reasonably adept and flashy guitarists, Hood seems competent on bass and Irwin would make a decent understudy for Foo Fighters’ Taylor Hawkins.
But while they look and sound like rockers – with their pierced lips, pierced eyebrows, elaborate tattoos, F-bombs and My Chemical Romance-meets-Good Charlotte vibe – they act like boy-banders, clowning around or smiling a lot while fawning over fan signs that say things like “Hey Mikey, I’m 18 & still haven’t had my first kiss!” and “Luke, I want to meet you!”
On Wednesday night, it was nearly impossible to hear their between-song banter because none of them could get out a full sentence before the screaming ensued.
Hemmings: “It’s hot, it’s raining, but you guys are still the bes–”
Clifford: “I wish I could give you sunshine and rainbows right n–”
Hood: “Are we still alive out th–”
Irwin: “I have a question. Is Charlotte named after a pers–”
These guys are certainly not Green Day (though a cover of “American Idiot” was robust and satisfying) and I kinda doubt “She’s Kinda Hot” will still be hot in 36 years (whereas 5SOS was happy to close with The Romantics’ 1979 classic “What I Like About You”).
Furthermore, 5 Seconds of Summer is so young it has just two albums from which to draw, and the second doesn’t come out until next month; so the band wound up playing almost every song from 2014’s self-titled debut to fill its 105-minute set.
But if one had to grade this concert based solely on the volume of their fans’ shrieks – and on the volume of the ringing in my ears as I write this – then it must get an A... for AAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEE!!!!!