Concert review: What music? Screams from One Direction fans in Brisbane drown out sound system

British boy band One Direction (from left) Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan and Liam Payne arriving at the NRJ Music Awards ceremony at the Festival Palace in Cannes on Dec 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
British boy band One Direction (from left) Zayn Malik, Harry Styles, Niall Horan and Liam Payne arriving at the NRJ Music Awards ceremony at the Festival Palace in Cannes on Dec 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

If there is one thing I learnt about going to a One Direction show, it is that you do not go to the gig expecting to hear much music.

What you get instead is a constant barrage of high-pitched screams from thousands of teenage and pre-pubescent girls who do not let up from the moment the quintet hit the stage to the time they exit.

Like at most stadium shows, the sound system at Brisbane's open-air Suncorp Stadium, where 1D played on Wednesday, is booming and powerful, but it is not potent enough to rise above the British-Irish quintet's army of followers. Let's hope the technical hardware at Singapore's National Stadium holds up better when the band play here for the first time on March 11.

Once you manage to filter out the shrieks, what you see and hear is a well-oiled showbiz machine at work in the 90-minute show.

They are a boyband, no doubt about it, put together by X-Factor judges and who have grown in the last 4 1/2 years to become the biggest one in the world right now. Still, they are an interesting mix of individual personalities in synergy.

Despite a semi-permanent scowl etched on his forehead, Harry Styles - the shaggy, long-haired one - is the best at engaging the audience. Whenever he is not singing, he is pointing out, making goo-goo eyes, and smiling randomly at different faces in the crowd. This is probably why he is the most feted member and hogs many headlines.

His four compatriots also get the same exuberant response whenever they take their turn in the spotlight.

Zayn Malik, the one with the striking eyelashes and rasta-coloured earpiece, is the scruffiest of the lot, wearing a sleeveless, faded black MTV T-shirt and ripped jeans.

He also seems to be the least jovial, comes off as a little aloof, and is the strongest singer with the most soulful voice.

The rest are pretty solid in multi-part harmonies. And while they seem to go through the motions at times, there is an undeniable bonhomie among the five as they barrel throughout the massive stage, which came complete with an extended runway, a rising section upfront, giant LED screens and, like many other big-budget stadium shows, fireworks galore.

With a new album Four to promote, 1D dutifully perform songs from the record, which fans loyally sing along to. Then the level of hysteria really amps up when the boys trot out earlier hits such as Best Song Ever, One Thing and What Makes You Beautiful.

Manufactured or not, 1D do not fall into all of the usual boyband tropes.

There is not a single whiff of synchronised dance moves, and God forbid they wear matching outfits (although, as mentioned, they all do have a love for super-tight jeans in blue or black).

Moreover, despite their young and girly fan base, the only thing squeaky-clean about the group are Niall Horan and Liam Payne's decent haircuts. Malik, Styles and Louis Tomlinson, on the other hand, sport more tattoos than seasoned sailors.

Then again, they probably only look rebellious.

Like many good pop bands, 1D make sure that the fans feel appreciated, with everyoneof them repeating, several times, how thankful they are for the fans' support. Styles takes it one step further, thanking the "parents, grandparents, boyfriends" etc who took the girls down to the gig.

When the boys proclaim Brisbane to be the best crowd they ever had, you imagine every heart in the stadium swelling, even though the day is not far off when these same fans will grow up and realise that groups like 1D will repeat the same thing to every audience they play to.

Brisbane is just one of the Australian cities in the current leg of the group's On The Road Again tour. Like true rock stars, the five had arrived in the city mere hours before they took to the stage, and reportedly flew off not too long after the show ended.

The ringing and slight deafness in my ears most likely lasted a little longer than their sojourn in the city.

The trip to review One Direction's Brisbane show was sponsored by Live Nation Lushington.

Book it

ONE DIRECTION ON THE ROAD AGAIN TOUR 2015

Where: National Stadium

When: March 11, 8pm

Admission: $88, $128, $148, $168, $188, $198 and $388 from Sports Hub Tix (Go to www.sportshub.com.sg/sportshubtix/Pages/one-direction.aspx or call 6333-5000 or 3158-7888), Singapore Indoor Stadium's box office and all SingPost Outlets.