Tens of thousands of excited teenage girls and younger girls, and quite a few parents, invaded downtown New Orleans and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Thursday night to see and hear the pop vocal group One Direction.
One Direction consists of young Englishmen Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik and Irishman Niall Horan. They all share lead vocal duties, and Horan — who emerged as the most audience-engaging member of the group between songs — sometimes plays guitar.
Unlike such predecessors as the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, One Direction performed almost no choreography during their show. Instead, the guys strode over an exceptionally long catwalk on the Superdome floor and romped around on a main stage that featured three terraced ramps, jutting from its front and sides, plus two smaller stages set along the catwalk.
The closer the guys got to any section of the stadium, the louder the fans’ appreciation. Close-ups of one or another of them on the big HD screens beside the stage also inspired screams.
Even though Thursday was a school night, One Direction didn’t get on stage until 9:30 p.m. As early as 9 p.m., groups of impatient little girls stood in the Superdome stands, fists pounding the air as they chanted for their music idols.
A round of fireworks burst from each side of the stage as One Direction finally made their entrance. Fireworks and frequent expressions of appreciation for their young fans were recurring elements of the show.
One Direction is the brainchild of TV talent show judge and music producer Simon Cowell. Styles, Payne, Tomlinson, Malik and Horan were originally solo contestants during the 2010 season of the British TV show “The X Factor.” Cowell’s idea worked. In its fourth year, One Direction remains massively popular throughout the world.
But 1D is more than five cute young faces. The group’s music, veering from earnest ballads to catchy pop tunes and outright rock songs, is even better than it needs to be. And the guys can sing. Their talent showed at the Superdome show, but, maybe due to the rigors of the road, they also looked a bit punchy.
Some members stood out from the pack Thursday, especially Horan, the blond member of the group.
“New Orleans, this place is absolutely massive!” he said three songs into the show.
Styles chimed in with a standard “New Orleans, make some noise!” as well as “We can see your beautiful American faces.”
Horan, singing and playing guitar, took the spotlight again for “Don’t Forget Where You Belong.” He explained that he and his fellow 1D members are all from small towns in England and Ireland. Following a 1D musical pattern, Horan opened “Where You Belong” solo and then the other members joined in, accompanied by cellphone lights swaying all over the stadium.
Horan also opened the genuinely poignant “Through the Dark,” a lively song with Celtic music-style uplift. The other 1D members then joined him, singing harmony of the kind heard on classic Crosby, Stills & Nash recordings.
Styles sang the opening lines of one of the group’s pop anthems, “Happily,” accompanied by more harmony singing and confetti falling over the fans.
A rush of fan favorites, including the love songs “What Makes You Beautiful,” “You & I” and “Best Song Ever,” came late in the show.
Chances are that some lines in the final selection, “Best Song Ever” — a celebratory love song performed at a fist-pumping tempo — summed up the night for many 1D fans: “We danced all night to the best song ever. We knew every line.”