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Review: In Dallas, One Direction gets 'em screaming

Posted 1:21am on Sunday, Jun. 24, 2012

"When they come on stage, I'm going to start crying," said the young girl, clad in a pink, homemade shirt adorned with Sharpie scrawl, two rows ahead of me. "Don't make fun of me, OK?"

The other girl, to whom she was speaking directly in front of me, had an utterly grim look of understanding on her face: "I won't, I won't," she replied.

Collectively, all 19,000 of us squeezed inside the sizzling hot Gexa Energy Pavilion Saturday night were there to see "they." This was completely sold out. This was nervous excitement ready to tip over into unbridled frenzy at a moment's notice. This was serious.

This was One Direction.

As soon as the five performers -- Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson -- arrived on stage, the venue fairly detonated with shrieks, camera flashes and a palpable wall of wanting that didn't let up for the next 90 minutes. One Direction, for those of you wondering why all the fuss, are the product of pop Svengali Simon Cowell, who plucked the British-Irish group from its third place finish on the British edition of The X Factor two years ago, signed them to a deal and began systematically cramming them down the throats of audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Simply put, these dashing fellas (who, in a welcome change of pace, bring a bit of tabloid baggage with them) are this year's model, the latest objects of desire for those who grew out of swooning over the Jonas Brothers.

There's about as much substance here, too. Although there are some half-hearted attempts at playing instruments, the five teens (ranging in age from 18 to 20) spend most of the show racing from one side of the modestly appointed stage to the other, eliciting frantic screams, hastily raised posters and the odd bit of underwear (novelty boxers and bras made it up on stage).

They're blandly handsome, singing banal songs about love and having fun that, if you put a gun to my head this moment, I could not single out as being sung by One Direction. It's debatable if every last note the group sang was live -- close-ups on the microphones at certain points suggested not -- but really, technical skill is beside the point here.

It's seeing the sheer glee on the faces of the young girls -- and make no mistake, I was absolutely in the minority -- singing every word back to One Direction when you kind of shrug and accept it for what it is. It's slick, craven and calculated, but for as long as there have been little girls, there have been boys who sing to pine for.

The goofy video interludes, filmed in a way that eerily resembled Ralph Lauren ads, and the group's extended "interactive" segment where One Direction read aloud tweets from the audience members -- all of it was consumed eagerly, gladly. The vast majority simply wanted to be in the same building, plop down $35 for a T-shirt and leave floating on air.

Musically, the night was nothing but empty calories, but it didn't matter. This was One Direction -- the pop zeitgeist's ne plus ultra in 2012, ground zero for the young females of North Texas. The tears will dry, the memories will be cherished, but as with One Direction's forebears, this too will pass ... after next summer's already-booked tour, anyway.

The opening acts, Manika and Olly Murs, didn't generate quite the reaction One Direction did, although Murs came close. His 30-minute performance was the surprise of the night, with shockingly solid Stevie Wonder covers, a tight four-piece band and a general grasp of the sort of retro-soul and R&B the Brits craft so skillfully.

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