When I was a kid, I forced my mom to take me to see a band that was so nice you had to say its name twice — Duran Duran. My poor mother had no interest in hungry wolves, ragged tigers, or anyone with the last name of Taylor, but she took me anyway. I never fully appreciated this selfless gesture until last week, when I agreed to accompany my 9-year-old daughter, Violet, to a One Direction concert at Madison Square Garden. A shameless year-end play for Father of the Year consideration? Perhaps, but I was also genuinely curious to see what about this British boy band was so special as to warrant posters that cover every square inch of my daughter’s bedroom.
Here’s what you need to know about a One Direction show: It is deafening. Not the band itself, but the crowd. I have seen AC/DC fire off cannons indoors and stood with my ears two feet from the speakers as punk bands competed to make as much noise as possible at CBGB, but nothing could have prepared me for the nonstop shrieking generated by 20,000 tween and teen girls. At one point early in the evening, a girl behind me started screaming like crazy, only to then scream, ”I DON’T KNOW WHY I’M SCREAMING!!!” Neither did I, seeing as how One Direction were not due to take the stage for another hour. Once they did, opening up with ”Up All Night,” pubescent pandemonium ensued. I spent most of the first few songs trying to keep track of who was Louis and who was Liam — kind of like the great Danny-or-Donnie New Kids on the Block conundrum of 1990 — while also doing my best not to feel vaguely creepy about being pretty much the only male in the entire audience (the ticket taker at the entrance actually stared at me as I walked in and said, ”I just want to look at the face of a better man than I”).
But the biggest shock of the night was that I actually enjoyed myself. Or, rather, enjoyed watching my daughter enjoy the band. We even bonded as I argued that Zayn was a better singer than her personal favorite, Harry. Seeing as how the guy I thought was Zayn was actually some dude named Niall, I’m pretty sure I lost that one. But in terms of the evening in general, I feel like we both kinda came out winners.