The new moptops storming the States: JAN MOIR gets swept up in the hysteria over the cute British boy band billed as the next Beatles
Some of the fans are disappointed that it has been raining in Boston. Why ‘It might mean that One Direction won’t like the city and they’ll never, ever come back again,’ says Megan Connor, 16, almost in tears.
There are goosebumps on her bare legs and the wintry showers have washed away some of the ink on her home-made Union flag poster, but she doesn’t care. ‘One Direction are in my city,’ she says, ‘which means that I am breathing the same air as them.’
She pauses for a moment to let this incredible fact sink in. Then she throws back her head and lets rip with a tonsil-waggling scream.
Heart-throbs (from left): Louis, Niall, Liam, Harry and Zayn mimic The Beatles' Help album cover
Nearby, Sydney Durfee and Jillian Chrisom, both 15, are wearing T-shirts printed with Union flags and the words: ‘I love British boys.’ The clothes proclaim to the world at large their cherished status as Directioners — the name hardcore fans of boy band One Direction like to call themselves.
The five-piece British group, who came third in the final of The X Factor in 2010 are on their first tour of the U.S. and causing nothing short of a major teen quake. It is not quite Beatlemania, but it is getting bigger and bigger every day.
The band were mentored on The X Factor by Simon Cowell, who signed them to his SyCo record label. Last month, their What Makes You Beautiful hit won the Brit award for Best Single and dates for their shows in the UK next year are already selling out fast. Yet it is here in the U.S. that the most interesting One Direction effect is happening.
Hours before showtime, thousands of fans are already massing outside the sell-out hall, the Agganis Arena situated to the west of the city centre.
Directioners: Thousands of screaming fans turn out in Toronto, Canada, to catch a glimpse of the boy band
On this ten-date tour, One Direction
are only the support act to an American group called Big Time Rush, but
it is obvious who is the real draw.
only are One Direction displacing some home-grown, heart-throb acts in
the affections of America’s teen fan base, they are also one of the few
British acts for decades to succeed in breaking into the lucrative U.S.
Why have this bunch of new generation moptops succeeded where so many other UK hopefuls have failed
The Directioners, of course, have all the answers. ‘One Direction are so different from American bands. They are polite. And I love their accents,’ says Sydney.
‘I love their hair. They have voices like angels, even though they are just ordinary boys,’ says Jillian, who adds she loves all things English including ‘those big red buses you guys have and also Adele’.
And while the group — Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson — are undeniably cute, the true Directioner loves the boys for more than their good looks.
Teen quake: Fans at One Direction's concert at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Virginia
‘They are so sincere,’ adds Sydney. ‘American boys can be rude, but One Direction are not like that. They are clean and classy.’
the hall, the tension mounts. The fans scream at videos projected onto a
screen, they scream at the slightest movement onstage, they scream at
lots of parents in the audience, sportingly acting as chaperones; you
can see lots of bewildered, lumberjack shirt-wearing dads looking
stunned at being caught up in the middle of this shrieking maelstrom of
sequins, teeth braces, flowery perfume and soaring adolescent hormones.
Bailey Mudge, 15, and Katelyn Conlon, 16, spent much of the previous evening making their own One Direction T-shirts.
Heart-throbs: One Direction appear on Canadian television show NEW.MUSIC.LIVE in Toronto
Totes gorge: Harry Styles on One Direction's first-ever live Canadian television appearance
Why does Katelyn have little neon
carrots on hers ‘Liam once said he loves girls who love carrots,’ she
explains. They know some of the group members have girlfriends, but that
is OK. ‘We only want them to be happy,’ says Bailey.
thought Harry’s relationship with 32-year-old television presenter
Caroline Flack was ‘a bit weird’. But all they want is for him to be
happy, so it was ‘totally cool’.
the One Direction stage, every expense has been spared. A black cloth
with the group’s name emblazoned in white letters is hung at the back. A
roadie walks on stage (scream!) with bottles of water and places them
in front of the monitors. And as far as scene-setting goes, that’s it.
Not that the fans mind.
front of the stage, they wave souvenirs and neon tube lights, taking
photographs of each other doing so. The man selling thin cotton One
Direction T-shirts for a scandalous $35 (22) is doing a roaring trade.
Up and down the rows there are hundreds of home-made posters being waved aloft.
Some of them are declarations of emotion (Niall You Light Up My World Like No One Else); some are oblique mission statements (One Love, One Dream, One Direction); some are funny (Check Out This Direction); some contain information (We Drove 410 Miles To Get Here); while some underline the fact that there is always one girl who will let the side down (One Direction Get Naked With Me).
And when the group finally take to the stage shortly after 7.30pm, the fevered screaming reaches a pitch and intensity that is physically painful to endure.
‘Hello Boston,’ shouts Harry, and the shrieking greeting he receives from thousands of fans in return is like having hot needles plunged deep into your ear canal.
To make matters worse, Boston reserves a specially warm, Celtic welcome for Irishman Niall. Every time Niall does a scissor kick or waves to the crowd, the screams of delight hit lugs-busting proportions.
Calm before the storm: The band look down at fans outside the window in the green room ahead of their Toronto performance
The five-piece One Direction are a
man down at the moment, as Zayn has had to leave the tour to return to
England following the death of a relative.
So far, he has missed at least two dates, but sources close to the band insist he is to return shortly.
stage, the remaining quartet look crisp. They dress in a patriotic mix
of red, blue and white colours, they make a point of thanking fans for
their support — and remind them to pre-order their new songs.
course, they are totes gorge; Harry with his curly croissant of hair
and his dimples; blond, cute Niall; Liam in his trademark stripes and
dazzling smile; and Louis with his dark, good looks.
A building frenzy: One Direction kicking off their first-ever U.S. tour in Chicago last month
top of this aesthetic blessing, their carefully-calibrated songs plug
straight into the mainframe of adolescent angst. Put it another way,
they sing lyrics that every teenage girl longs to hear.
‘What makes you beautiful,’ they croon. ‘Is that you don’t know you are beautiful.’
They are scrupulously polite at every opportunity. ‘Everything we do is for you guys, so thank you so much,’ says Harry.
television interviews and promotions, they handle the most inane
questions with charm. On an interview with a Boston radio station
earlier in the day, Liam was asked what he would be doing if he wasn’t
in a pop band. ‘I’d open up a sweet shop and sell liquorice,’ he said,
the tuck shop of pop, bands don’t come any more manufactured and sugary
than One Direction. They didn’t even audition for The X Factor as a
unit; putting themselves forward as individuals, they each failed to
make it in the boys’ section and were formed into a group by the show’s
Some support act: The band are supporting US group Big Time Rush on tour, but are easily rivalling them in popularity and press attention
Apart from a little bit of guitar noodling from Niall, they do not play any instruments on stage, but sing to a backing track.
those who dismiss them as a cheap karaoke act miss the point entirely.
Every year, thousands of young men try and fail to make it as pop
heart-throbs on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet One Direction have
cracked it wide open.
have to do is keep it together as a group and as people, not mind too
much the occasional indignities that being in a boy band throws up, and
the world and all its riches are theirs for the taking.
we exit into the cold night, ears ringing with pain, I bump into Sydney
and Jillian again, flushed with the thrill of the show. The next day,
they were planning to go early to a local shopping centre where One
Direction are making a public appearance.
They had already worked out a strategy (‘We will be cool. They don’t like people screaming all the time’) and had thought of what to say if they got the chance of speak to their heroes. ‘I would ask Niall to say potato,’ says Sydney. ‘So that I could hear his accent.’
As the Beatles once almost said, money can’t buy that kind of love.