TAMPA — There will be plenty of time for cynicism later in this review, so let me say this right off the bat: On Friday, there was a life-affirming sweetness in the sound of 20,000 preteen girls caterwauling their rabid appreciation for the blokes in One Direction, the shaggy U.K. leaders of the current boy band renaissance.
That the cumulative EEEEEEEE! was akin to a panicked parakeet lodged in your ear is not the point. A very, very sold-out 1-800-Ask-Gary Amphitheatre was absolutely packed with pure joy. If you were of the older, chaperonial persuasion, you might have left with a headache or an earache or a desire to flee to Mexico. But you also might have left with a lump in your throat.
Oh, to be lovesick for mediocre pop talent again!
Will the boys in One Direction be around this time next year? Maybe, maybe not. Born in the petri dish of Simon Cowell's British version of The X Factor, the boys in 1D — Niall! Harry! Louis! Zayn! Liam! — seem like laid-back, likeable chaps. I guess the quintet can sing a little, too, but let's be honest: One of their live shows isn't the place to grade that.
Who can hear with all that hollerin'? I think a new record was set for the most times an artist has ever said "Make some noise Tampa!"
A few songs in the 90-minute set managed to register as better-than-average. The sandy vibe of I Wish strived for the cascading harmonies of the Beach Boys. Current hit One Thing packed a power-pop sheen that was pogo-worthy. And What Makes You Beautiful, saved for the end of the show, was ridiculously catchy, although I'm not sure how well it will age.
That said, a cover of Kings of Leon's Use Somebody, originally a masculine smash, was rendered vanilla and wimpy, like something cringe-worthy from the Busch Gardens Players.
But this show wasn't about music. It was about those cute boys! They had a British ease and charm about them, happy to be here but not too proud of themselves. Harry Styles, who looked like he has a nicely coiffed wombat on his head, is the resident bad boy, a tabloid fave back in the U.K. Styles hovers on the edge of disinterest, with a smirk as his charm card. As a result, the crowd was awash in homemade "Mrs. Styles" shirts glittering up the night.
Man, why was I so nice in high school?!
Sigh. Boys bands come and go, and One Direction will, sooner rather than later, go too. It's not sad when they grow up; they were meant to fade. But when all those fans, all those screams of pure joy grow up and bid childhood goodbye? Well, that's another story.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.