By Lauren Lopez
Not many people intend to like a boy band. But while listening to the radio, it’s often too hard to ignore songs like One Direction’s first hit single, “What Makes You Beautiful.” The battle is lost when the song is finally downloaded, then played repeatedly for weeks. All too soon, concert tickets are purchased to see One Direction live. Five years and four concerts later, there’s no hope left.
This summer, One Direction’s On the Road Again Tour proved a huge change for many dedicated fans. The biggest difference between these concerts and the ones from pervious tours is perhaps too obvious to mention, as Zayn Malik left the band in March, halfway through the On the Road Again Tour. Those who attended the tour in February and March saw shows with Malik, but after his departure, the tour was completely reworked. His solos were divided between the remaining four members, all of the merchandise was redesigned to omit him, and all of the choreography and blocking was changed so that the gap wasn’t as obvious.
Many fans were both nervous and excited that he wasn’t going to be there, since they didn’t know how the band would work without him. He had one of the largest vocal ranges in the group, so he was often given high notes that he could belt out stronger than any of the others. Many worried there would be obvious holes in the music without him there to sing. To top it all off, there are multiple past interviews with One Direction during which they mention how the band wouldn’t work without all of five of them. Because of this, a big part of the betrayal felt upon Malik’s departure was that they were doing something previously deemed impossible.
But once concert footage from dates after Malik’s departure was released, it was clear they were just as strong—if not stronger—as a four-piece group. Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson, who are arguably the weaker singers in the band, made fans proud by covering some of Malik’s solos. Moments like this expressed how much the band has grown as singers since 2010, reminding audiences how talented and versatile they actually are.
During many previous One Direction concerts, like those on the Take Me Home Tour and the Where We Are Tour, 5 Seconds of Summer (5SOS) opened for them. These two were a good pair, as many One Direction fans also like 5SOS, and their sets always got the crowd pumped.
5SOS formed in 2011, when the members started posting videos of themselves on YouTube. They attracted interest from record labels, but their international fame really spread when Tomlinson shared one of their videos. His seal of approval is the reason that a lot of One Direction fans are also fans of 5SOS. The two bands have similar carefree personalities evidenced by the many photos and videos chronicling the backstage antics of these nine band members. The two bands also appear to be good friends, which adds to the atmosphere whenever they play shows together.
But since 5SOS has grown more popular, they’ve moved onto headlining their own tours. For the American leg of the On the Road Again Tour, the Swedish electropop duo, Icona Pop, opened the shows. Their music style is very different, and it was evident by the lack of singing among the crowd that a lot of the fans didn’t know their songs. But Icona Pop was a stronger opener than expected. They’re really talented and did their best to pump up the crowd. During their song “On a Roll,” they changed the lyrics from “on a roll again” to “on the road again” in honor of the tour’s name. They closed with their most popular song, “I Love It,” which really brought the crowd to life. Everyone stood up and yelled out the lyrics.
At the Boston and Detroit shows, Augustana joined Icona Pop to serve as an additional opener. They only played three songs, ending with “Boston,” which is easily one of their most recognizable songs. This song was released in 2005, so it’s likely that a lot of those in attendance were too young to remember it, but this did not affect the crowd’s reaction. It was a different type of music than fans would have expected to hear at a One Direction concert, but it was a welcome surprise.
Overall, the East Rutherford show was more jittery, for both the crowd and the band. It was only about five days after they dropped their first single, “Drag Me Down,” off their upcoming album, which was unnamed at the time of the tour, but has recently been revealed to be titled Made in the A.M. The song was released in the middle of the night, only about five days before the East Rutherford show, so while the energy was high before the song at the Boston concert, it was even higher at East Rutherford because the song was still brand new. Between some of their songs, the band provided brief introductions that gave clues as to what song they were going to sing next. As soon as they mentioned their new single, the entire crowd started screaming.
So much went into the overall tone of the Boston show. Augustana showed up out of nowhere and sang “Boston,” it was Horan’s birthday, a torrential downpour carried on for most of the show, and more than anything else, it was the last show of the American leg. To make it even more somber, a few weeks before the show, it was announced that One Direction would be going on hiatus in March to pursue solo careers for a while. While the members of the band assured fans that they are not breaking up, there are still plenty of people who feel that this hiatus will be the end of One Direction. It all began with Malik’s departure, continued into Tomlinson’s fatherhood announcement, and will eventually end with the break that will destroy the few bonds they have left.
No one wanted to mention the breakup, but almost everyone in Boston that night was thinking about it. One Direction thanked the fans every chance they got. Liam Payne said multiple times how this will be the last time they’ll be in America for a while. But many worried that this would be the last show One Direction ever played in America.
Still, both concerts were amazing. One Direction has improved a lot since the band of misfits they started as in 2010. Their voices are stronger, their harmonies are more complicated, and they’re more comfortable on stage. They’ve been through a lot with all of the rumors and everything else that comes with being a celebrity, and even though it may all come to an end soon, the connection and love the fans feel for this band will never fully fade away.