One Direction at the Pepsi Center, 7-24-13 (photos, review)By Matt Miller | July 25th, 2013 | 3 comments
A half hour before the concert even started, the screams of about 20,000 young women cut through the Pepsi Center as a commercial for One Direction dolls played on the jumbo screen. Then, an anti-bullying ad featuring One Direction — more screams. Then, a Nabisco ad — even more screams. And so on. Sharp, shrill and full of undying love, every time the LCD-lit faces of the five members of the British boy band appeared a fraction of the anxiety in the arena would release.
But it wasn’t enough. For most of these fans who had purchased a ticket in 2012 and counted down the days to Wednesday July 24, 2013, nothing can compare to seeing Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson in person. Take this rough mathematical calculation for proof of the significance of this night: Most of these fans had been waiting 10 percent of their lives for this One Direction concert.
So, it was with a deafening squeak that One Direction took the stage at the Pepsi Center — almost too sudden for any of the fans to grasp. The cute one, the quiet one, the sensible one, the charming one and the funny one stood atop a castle of flat screen monitors. They probably sang “Up All Night,” but no one could possibly tell among the yelling. Moving in a choreographed formation to various casual poses across the castle, they kneeled, squatted and sat on the edge of the stage. Hair perfectly ruffled, attire like they were going to Chili’s, the five could have been plucked off the street or out of a Vogue spread. And there must be some kind of NASA-developed technology back stage that makes the boy’s eyes look always on the verge of tears. Musicians stood on the outskirts — a guitarist in the bottom left, keyboardist in the top left, drummer in the top right, bassist below him, but no one would notice them. The collective passion of this arena centered on five things.
The only time the screaming stopped was to hear what one of the five had to say. After the first song, it was Louis’ turn to talk. In his charming British accent he complimented Denver’s water of all things. If only the Water Department had a video, it would have been the best advertising campaign possible. Then they sang “I Would,” “Heart Attack,” “More Than This” and “Loved You First,” but really, it didn’t matter. Boy Band can do no wrong — this is a formula with endless power.
Take the song “One Thing” for example, which the five played before embarking on a suspended journey across the audience to the center of the arena. The song must have the same chord progression as the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.” But that song reached No. 1 across the world before most of the audience was even born. This made it feel just as dated to compare the band to Party Posse — flirty and “funky, but not threatening.”
Once in the center of the audience, the boys took turns exchanging banter about rather old YouTube videos and responded to tweets from fans. At this point, it became clear that the audience needs to decide who they love the best. Liam seemed the most talented, starting nearly every song on his own, but didn’t get the biggest cheers from the crowd. Harry was the clear leader of the group, at least in terms of decibels. Niall appeared to play guitar, which set him apart, but really, all of One Direction wore their chosen personas well.
With concert production aside, the most impressive aspect of One Direction is the lyrical content. Songs like “Little Things” and “What Makes You Beautiful” actually have some great messages for young fans. Whomever wrote these songs seemingly has some positive things to say about women, which at least for parents, must make taking your kid to a One Direction concert feel far more comforting than a Wiz Khalifa or Pitbull or even Justin Bieber concert. It’s juvenile, yes, but it’s rather wholesome. It’s nearly edgy, but still very much Disney.
And at the end of a later than expected show (10:30 p.m.), that’s why most of the parents escorting out tweens — red-faced from crying and screaming for at least three hours — or waiting on the sidewalk appeared in good spirits: “The kids could be doing something worse.”
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.