One Direction - Photo by Matt Jelonek
One Direction – Photo by Matt Jelonek

Subiaco Oval

Friday, February 20, 2015

I’m going to be up front and say, if you want to indulge in some satirical boy band bashing, you’ll have to click elsewhere for your daily dose of weary cynicism/auto-rant response to the commercialisation of modern music.

Having attended a lot of local live music shows, complaints about the lack of attendance on that front are warranted (seriously people, go to more small gigs), but this wasn’t that kind of concert. I went to Subiaco Oval to see a boy band, formed on a talent show, sing chart-friendly pop songs.

(The part social media has played in the band’s success makes the global phenomenon of One Direction interesting, in a period-specific way. Member Harry Styles most haunted by, “will he go solo?” headlines has over 10 million Instagram followers, placing him in the top 20 in the world at the start of 2015.)

First up, a lot of the crowd were not just teenagers, but tweens and children accompanied by parents. At sixteen, the Violent Femmes were my first live show, and I couldn’t help thinking a nearby six year old is set to have a decade more concert memories than me.

One Direction are notoriously polite (fans will remind you of the time Louis helped Nathan Fillion clear a table backstage at the AMAs), almost shocking in an era of chart toppers known for inflated egos and public tantrums. They’ve released four albums in four years, and toured pretty incessantly. That’s hundreds of shows – and it shows.

Zayn disappeared backstage early on, apparently ill, but the rest didn’t miss a step, that famed respect for fans in full effect. They bantered between songs, complimented the crowd, worked all sides of the stage, lead the crowd in a rendition of Happy Birthday for a few lucky fans, and read out signs (well, the PG ones). Harry flicked his hair upon request, and Louis, well he just fixed his hair a few times. (It was windy! #fringeissues.)

The production team went all out: multiple sets of fireworks, streamers, and surprisingly slick graphics (bright blocky designs and eighties references, like retro gaming graphics, and skateboard decks) mixed with crowd and band shots. Overall the experience wasn’t about subtlety or soul deep passion; it was busy and enthusiastic, which seems to suit today’s tech’d up youth.

Recognised singles were the most popular, then ballads. Interestingly, the guys onstage seemed to get the most excited about the more rock-style tracks, ones that evoked the least response from the crowd. It made me think about the ages of the band members, their tastes, and wonder whether the next album will move away from a pop sound. These guys aren’t fresh-faced teens anymore. The stadium wasn’t full, so maybe a little change in direction (ha!) won’t hurt.

While crossing the oval to take a toilet break (hey if band members can, so can I), the lights waving in the air made for a pretty scene. Not candles or lighters: phone screens. Glancing at a nearby row, I saw a group of 8-10 year-olds waving their mobiles enthusiastically. Man, the world is a different place these days.