One Direction 'not about music'

FAMOUS FIVE: One Direction perform in Christchurch.
FAMOUS FIVE: One Direction perform in Christchurch.

One Direction at the CBS Canterbury Arena in Christchurch last night.

As people flooded into the arena for One Direction's show, a double rainbow appeared in the sky, the pot of gold at the end of it surely belonging to those selling 1D merchandise last night - glow sticks, flags and lanyards.

One Direction is not about music; it is a marketing exercise - the group's carefully nurtured fandom the reason for its success.

Some have compared this fandom with Beatlemania, which I find abhorrent. It's like comparing McDonald's with fine dining. 1D simply fill a gap in the teenage market.

After Australian band 5SOS, who rocked, there was a bizarre audience singalong to the Friends theme song and dancing to the Macarena.

When five-piece One Direction finally appeared on stage to mass screaming so loud it physically hurt, the actual band - those making the music - were there too, but hidden behind a black curtain. To those behind the curtain I say, "Well played".

Christchurch may have been the smallest venue on their tour, but even 1D acknowledged that Christchurch fans were the loudest. "That's the loudest we've ever heard."

1D were charming and funny. Throughout the two-hour show they thanked their audience effusively and mucked about laddishly.

From what I could hear above the screams, they sang their hits, Kiss You, Rock Me, Up All Night, etc - safe songs about first kisses, dancing all night and staying up to see the sun - and the fans sang along.

1D also sang Blondie, Wheatus and the Undertones covers, many of which were written by musicians long before 1D were embryos. It was like a giant karaoke party.

Normally I'd comment on the sound mix and 1D's vocals, but the screams from fans were so loud and frequent up in the nosebleed section, it was often a strain to hear anything clearly.

Interaction with fans on stage is a key part of this mammoth, glossy stage show. They ignored fans at the airport, didn't do a meet and greet and, after the show, climbed into their waiting car bound for their private jet without acknowledging fans. But on stage it was all about the fans.

1D asked fans to tweet them a challenge, which then appeared on the big screen; eg, "dance to MC Hammer's Can't Touch This". After the challenge they would single out the girl in the crowd and acknowledge them.

The thousands of fans were excited in the purest possible way. The arena was a sea of glow sticks and ecstatic faces.

1D delivered the party of the year they promised and seemed happy with their reception.

"One of my favourite shows ever; most in-tune crowd ever," one of the group declared as the screams intensified.

The encore culminated in Best Song Ever and What Makes You Beautiful, and a collective scream that surely upset animals around the city.

The gigs I usually go to are different, but I understand how important the group's visit was to Christchurch fans, who will treasure memories of their first concert experience forever.

The beatific camaraderie of the fans was wonderful to observe. They streamed into the car park towards parents who had waited over an hour (the show ran late), skipping, hugging themselves and singing "and we danced all night to the best song ever".

The Press