#ZaynDidNOTComeBackJuly26 for One Direction’s TCF Bank Stadium show on Sunday, as Twitter had buzzed about for days. But you know what? We didn’t really miss him all that much. His old bandmates — Liam, Harry, Niall, and Louis — did a perfectly fine job distracting us from his absence, which began in March but is rumored to be short-lived. I mean, come on – look at them! Raise your hand if Harry Styles makes you feel things underneath your clothes. Come on, there’s no shame in it.
One Direction has never been the monolith that boy bands like N*SYNC and Backstreet Boys were in my teenage years; 1D is more popular overseas, and ticket sales for this show were slow, with front-row seats eventually selling for less than $100. That’s not to say that the crowd at TCF didn’t go insane when the four lads took the stage, because they did. You could hear the high-pitched screaming from downtown, I bet. The U.K. band has been on a schedule of relentless touring the past few years, cashing in on their popularity before it eventually fades, as boy-band fame always does. It was all that touring and screaming that caused Zayn, arguably the most popular member, to retire from the group earlier this year to live a “normal life,” even though his version of a normal life is shaving his head and sitting next to Kanye at Louis Vuitton.
It’s interesting to view a boy band through a grown-woman lens versus the eyes of a 12-year-old, the age I was when I saw NSYNC in Fargo. One Direction and NSYNC are very different bands; 1D doesn’t deign to do the choreographed dances that Justin and Co. were known for. They just prance around the stage, but they do it with such practiced verve that you don’t feel like something’s missing. You’re really just busy watching Harry’s hair float freely as he moves.
The four members seem less squeaky clean than boy bands were in my youth. Louis just got a girl he’s not dating pregnant, for God’s sake. There is something more sexual about 1D and their songs; when you’re standing next to a six-year-old belting out the words to “Night Changes,” you realize, “Wow, this child has no idea that this song is about hooking up, and I wouldn’t have either at her age.” Plus, in this social media-centric era, the girls can actually be part of the boys’ lives via Twitter and Instagram instead of seeing them via teenybop magazines like we did. One Direction happens in real time.
The boys of One Direction are relentlessly charming and funny, with each one taking a few minutes to banter in their adorable accents with the crowd of chicks, or stopping to tease one another and ignite those gay romance rumors. (There’s a huge fandom for 1D “slash” fanfiction, if you didn’t already know.) Niall actually plays an instrument, which is a welcome sight, and all four can actually sing; the band was formed in 2010 via the U.K. version of the X Factor. They make the most of their 90-minute show and whip through their hits — “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful," “Best Song Ever — delighting their crowd of Directioners, who hold up blinking iPhones and film Snapchats to pay their respects. The moms join in, too. “Is this your first 1D show?” one asked us. “I’ve been to three.”
Harry is clearly the star of the show and he knows it. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s next to fly the coop. After all, he’s the one who got an entire album out of Taylor Swift; his star power is that strong. Louis, Liam, and Niall tend to hug the stage together, while Harry ignites his own little corner. They’re a band first and foremost, and wouldn’t have found success without one another, but Harry’s carrying them in Zayn’s absence.
Girls will always have their boy bands, and One Direction is still the boy band du jour. When something new comes along, as it always does, they’ll be just fine … or we’ll pay $20 to see them at Mystic Lake in 15 years when they fall prey to the Reunion Tour.
Critic's bias: I bought a hat AND a tank top, so …
Notes on the opener: Icona Pop will not have another hit.
Random notebook dump: I want to lick sweat off Harry Styles.
The crowd: 97.5 percent females under 20.
Overheard in the crowd: "OMGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!”