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Concert Reviews:
One Direction delivers a scream dream at Detroit's Ford Field

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, August 17, 2014

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DETROIT -- One Direction came full circle in its Detroit performing history on Saturday night, Aug. 16.

Sort of.

It's hard to believe it was just over two years ago that the group made its Motor City debut at the Fox Theatre, an instant sell-out and an impossible-to-get ticket. This weekend, after a similarly hot stop last summer at the Palace of Auburn Hills, the British pop quintet is playing not one but two sold-out dates across the way from the Fox at Ford Field, an ascent that's left One Direction's members as gobsmacked as anyone else.

"To be in the middle of a country, playing a stadium like this, it's incredible," the group's Liam Payne told the 49,000 fans (of which a good 48,000 were females of all ages) during the first Ford Field show. His sentiments were echoed by his bandmates throughout the night, sincerely marveling at the four-year rise from contestants on Simon Cowell's British version of "The X Factor" to multi-platinum superstars who dished out as many bona fide hits during their hour-and-50-minutes on stage at Ford Field than the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners did during their baseball game next door at Comerica Park.

Despite the scale of the show, however, One Direction's 24-song set was refreshingly free of many of the props, stunts and contrived choreography that marks most pop spectacles these days. Yes, there was an elaborate video presentation, lasers, occasional pyrotechnics, a streamer shower during "Happily" and a multi-tiered stage fronted by a long runway that jutted deep into the Ford Field floor, where a hydraulic platform lifted the group members towards the roof during "Alive" and "One Thing." But One Direction itself seemed relatively random and unscripted, working the crowd more on instinct than pre-determined directions and even talking over and amongst each other during the between-song chatter moments.

The group also led the singing of happy birthday to one of the fans and spent a good deal of time admiring the myriad signs in the crowd, complimenting the skill of Detroit's art teachers. The group's Harry Styles, whose video screen image drew the loudest cheers (though Niall Horan was a close second), also gave props to Eminem as one of the "main reasons we love Detroit."

Detroit returned that love, of course, in deafening fashion as Saturday's crowd sang along to even "deep cuts" such as "Alive" and "Why Don't We Go There," both from the deluxe edition of One Direction's third and latest album, "Midnight Memories." The title track, in fact, opened the show, while "Story of My Life," played during the encore, has clearly joined Top 5 predecessors such as "What Maks You Beautiful" and "Live While We're Young" as a defining staple in One Direction's canon. "Right Now," meanwhile, proved that the group members could capably deliver intricate vocal arrangements even if most of its songs aren't quite as demanding.

Towards the end of the night, Horan declared Saturday "the loudest show of the tour so far," and anyone exposed to the crowd's high-decibel reaction would not doubt him. And when Payne asked, "When we come back to Detroit next year, will you come again?," the reaction was decidedly -- and ear-splittingly -- affirmative.

Opening act 5 Seconds of Summer, meanwhile, was received with nearly as much enthusiasm. Another hot commodity whose self-titled first album recently debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the Australian quartet, more rock band than pop ensemble, romped through an 11-song, 45-minute set the found the group members showing their musical influences via Kurt Cobain and Green Day T-shirts, while its selection of covers ranged from pop (Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream") to a bit of Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and a revved-up "What I Like About You" by Detroit's own Romantics.

The crowd sang along to 5SOS's own hits -- "She Looks So Perfect," "Don't Stop" and "Amnesia" -- with as much fervor as they sang any of One Direction's, too, and there's little doubt many will make their way to the Palace next Aug. 19 when the group's already-announced tour hits town.

One Direction and 5SOS perform again on Sunday, July 17, at Ford Field. "Where We Were," a filmed version of One Direction's 2014 show, will be shown in theaters on Oct. 11-12 and released on DVD on Dec. 2; ads for that at Ford Field were loudly cheered, along with commercial's for One Direction's fragrance.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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