As its summer tour began in early July, there were rumblings that the bloom was off the One Direction rose.
In March, Zayn Malik unexpectedly quit the five-man British boy band.
Subsequently (if not consequently), ticket sales of its North American tour have lagged behind sales in Europe, to the point that promoters were offering giveaways and two-for-one deals. In June, the London tabloid “The Mirror” posted a story with the headline: “Are One Direction losing their touch as they give away free tickets to American concerts?”
If enthusiasm for the quartet of 20-somethings is waning, it wasn’t evident at Arrowhead Stadium on Tuesday night, when nearly 44,000 fans waited in oppressive heat for a show that exceeded two hours and roiled with relentless energy and noise.
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The evening started with a set by Icona Pop, a Swedish duo who perform poppy electronic dance anthems while moving about the stage, adhering loosely to rudimentary choreography. The sun was still punishing much of the crowd and everyone on stage during their set, but the two managed to arouse some enthusiasm from fans who were otherwise biding time until the headliners took over.
That would take a while.
The wait between sets exceeded an hour, and it would include a barrage of commercials for the automobile company sponsoring the tour. Things got so tedious, fans did the wave.
The floor of Arrowhead was a sea of signs, many of them proposing marriage or some teeny-bop sentiment to the 1Ds. This wasn’t a typical boy-band crowd, however. There were plenty of swooning young girls, pre-teens and adolescents, and they were the ones doing most of the screaming. But there were lots of high school- and college-aged guys and gals in the place, too, and plenty of adults, and not all of them were chaperones or had children in tow.
One Direction hit the stage several minutes past 9 p.m., detonating a gale of squeals, screams and cheers that lasted through the first five or six songs. The stage was flanked by two massive video screens that broadcast images from the stage, in black and white and color, giving fans in the upper deck a vivid view of what was going on.
A four-piece band delivered live accompaniment, as did One Direction’s Niall Horan, who played electric and acoustic guitar throughout the show. Behind the band, another massive video screen projected graphics and other visuals. There were lasers and streamers and fireworks, too.
A secondary stage sat towards the back of the floor with a large runway between it and the main stage. The guys made good use of all of that, running back and forth and mixing with the crowd along the way.
They opened with “Clouds,” a track off their latest album, “Four.” Like most of the songs that that would follow, it’s dynamic, melodic and built for big venues.
Their music is Top 40 formulaic, but sing-along catchy and not so repetitious.
It bounced from rock-based anthems like “Midnight Memories,” which bears a blatant resemblance to Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” to bubble-gum pop like “Kiss You,” the funky-crunch of “Little Black Dress,” the R&B swing of “Stockholm Syndrome” and the exuberant ’60s pop of “Girl Almighty.”
Unlike its boy-band predecessors, such as the Backstreet Boys, One Direction doesn’t bother with matching fashion or slick choreography. Instead, they act independent of each other, until it comes to the service of the song, where they equitably share vocals – leads and harmonies. None of them is an exceptional singer, but they’ve added some polish to their vocals since their last visit to Kansas City in July 2013.
A few interludes slowed the momentum.
Liam Payne paused to read some of the many signs in the crowd. And a couple of times, Harry Styles stopped to preach or chat with fans up front. There were plenty of effusive moments, though, when the crowd bounced and danced and roared back lyrics, like during “Fireproof” and “No Control.” During “18” dozens of fans in the front rows raised signs that bore a line of the song: “I have loved you since we were ...”
All four of them thanked the crowd frequently and copiously, and they gave Kansas City some love, too. They also mentioned the heat. A lot. It took its toll: Payne changed his shirt a couple of times, and Styles’ sweat-drenched mop of hair ended up in a man bun.
More than two hours after they started, they ended the show with the joyous “Best Song Ever.”
It set off another spasm of delirium from a large crowd that looked and sounded ready to follow this band for the long haul.
Clouds; Steal My Girl; Little Black Dress; Where Do Broken Hearts Go; Midnight Memories; Kiss You; Stockholm Syndrome; Fireproof; Ready to Run; Better Than Words; Don’t Forget Where You Belong; Little Things; Night Changes; 18; No Control; Alive; Diana; What Makes You Beautiful; Through the Dark; Girl Almighty; Story of My Life. Encore: You and I; Act My Age; Little White Lies; Best Song Ever.