One Direction, Millennium Stadium Cardiff, review: 'business as usual'

June 7th, 2015 | by staff
One Direction, Millennium Stadium Cardiff, review: 'business as usual'
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Then there were four: One Direction perform without Zayn Malik

Then there were four: One Direction perform without Zayn Malik Photo: Rex Features

“Here we go again” roared One Direction at the opening of their British tour, and the 70,000 strong audience roared right back. In an ear battering competition between a giant PA and female fandom, I’d say the girls just about edged it.

After a tumultuous few months. it was back to business as usual for Britain’s biggest boy band with their first UK show since Zayn Malik quit in March. Despite speculation that this might be the beginning of the end, the remaining members have continued as a four piece without apparently breaking their stride or losing much sleep. Just three months on, Malik has been Stalinistically expunged from merchandise, with all official T-shirts and posters picturing the band as a four piece. Neither was his absence acknowledged or addressed on stage. There is a slight feeling of Omerta in this refusal to acknowledge his part in their history, as if, having broken the code of family, his name can never be mentioned again.

Malik boasted the highest voice in the ensemble but all his former band mates proved themselves capable of rising to the occasion, parcelling his parts out between them. By my count, Liam Payne their strongest vocalist, picked up the bulk of Malik’s lines but they all pitched in. Having originally made it through individual auditions for X Factor, there has never been any real question that they can all sing. And the essence of boy band style is to make a feature of vocal interchangeability, with multiple voices joining to tell individual stories, so that the “I” becomes a kind of “we” to which the audience also belong. “We’re not us if you’re not you,” as Harry Styles smartly puts it.

One Direction: Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson (Image: Rex Features)

But who they are becoming is a bit surprising. Dressed in high street t-shirts, tight trousers and covered in tattoos, 1D seem the antithesis of a manufactured TV talent show band. They amble about the stage with little obvious choreography and have the art of talking to audiences and each other with unscripted spontaneity.

While not exactly venturing into the territory of Black Sabbath, whose logo adorned Louis Tomlinson’s T shirt, their presentation gets rockier with each outing. Eschewing the pop sophistication of recordings, their young four piece band are unabashedly punchy, with Niall Horan augmenting on fuzzy electric guitar. Scruffy and loud, belting out noisy singalong anthems amidst flashing lights and fireworks, it is odd to think that the boy band and their support McBusted may prove unlikely saviours of rock in the digital pop era by inculcating a teeny audience in the joys of raucous guitar music.

• How much of a One Direction fan are you?

One Direction have a lot of charm and personality, indeed, it is arguably their greatest asset, the ability to maintain a kind of shambling boy next door amateurism at the heart of a slick, stadium scale production. Oddly, it is only contemplating how smoothly they have rolled over a big bump in the road that indicates the kind of ruthlessness driving the pop machine. Some fans still sported classic 5-piece shirts but it doesn’t look like there’s any way back for Malik now. Just think of the cost of reprinting all that merchandise.

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