One Direction is a new breed of boy band. No lockstep choreography, no stacked harmonies, no color-coordinated outfits. Dressed in preppy casual (with three outfit changes in the show), they spent most of a notably relaxed performance singing in a line and strolling back and forth.
Their dance moves are if anything slightly gangly. Sporadically they may rush to one side of the stage or other.
What they are is some kind of hormonal catalyst. The slightest gesture — Niall jumping in the air, Liam putting his arm around Harry — provoked mad paroxysms of shrieking. The One Direction singers, all in the 18-to-20-year-old range, are also quite telegenic. The audience seemed more focused on the close-ups on the giant screens flanking the stage than on the actual event.
The sleazy reality of the boy-band genre is that the screaming has to be insanely loud to drown out the feverish hum of the cash registers. The lines were 12 deep at the teeming merchandising booths in the lobby. And One Direction is a wholly owned subsidiary of Simon Cowell Industries, a product of the British version of The X Factor.
Liam did the lion’s share of the singing in a set list of sweetly yearning ballads and up-tempo pop that was as catchy as the flu. Opening with "Na Na Na" and closing with the encore "I Want," One Direction worked a Pony Express strategy quite effectively on their adoring fans, rotating lead vocalists in and out of the spotlight. "OMG, it’s Louis! We haven’t seen him in like 90 seconds! Ahhhhh!"
You have to question the "spontaneous" moments in the evening, for instance when the lads were responding to tweets purportedly sent in from girls in the Susquehanna audience. Alison asked them if they could do imitations of their "favourite" celebrities. Yeah, that’s not how girls in Jersey spell it.
Harry, he of the rakish Artful Dodger charm, handled the between-song patter for the first half. There were apparently burrs caught in his fabulous flop of hair. It required constant fluffing. Niall took his place shortly before a surprisingly good cover of the Kings of Leon’s "Use Somebody."
Both buttered up the crowd shamelessly. Near the end of the night, Niall professed, "This is the most incredible gig I’ve ever been to. … I’m standing over there with goose bumps."
Not to be cynical, but there’s a pretty good chance Niall says that to all the girls.
Contact David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @daveondemand_tv. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at www.philly.com/dod.