There is nothing in the world better than seeing your children happy. I got the chance on Sunday night to contribute to a huge amount of my kids’ happiness by taking them to see One Direction, live at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Taking one’s kids to a concert is always a little tricky – there are so many potential unforeseen circumstances that one has to be incredibly vigilant. Luckily I had my best friends with me (with their kids) to share the load. We wrote our cellphone numbers on the kids’ arms, gave them strict instructions about strangers and sticking together and what to do if you get lost, and had a little picnic outside the gates. The kids had been counting down the days, and now that it was hours till they saw their boy heroes, the pitch was reaching unprecedented proportions.
Let me just clarify something: Noodle, who is about to be 13, has gone off pop music. At home her room (and the house) reverberates with the sounds of Queen’s Bohemian Rhopsody or My Chemical Romance songs. She was feeling decidedly iffy about going to this concert. We had booked the tickets last August, before the novelty had worn off. Scary, on the other hand, is the hugest “WUNDEE” fan in the world (or at least in the 8-year-old world). So it seemed our little family was going to the concert on behalf of the littlest one. But when we got there, Noodle made the decision that she would be a 1D fan for the night. I thought that was an incredibly mature decision. And, Man! Did she enjoy herself!
By the time we entered Soccer City and found our seats (and us grown ups had growled at Computicket, because when we booked, the seats looked a whole lot closer than they were) the girls were squealing with excitement. Big Concerts ensured that the excitement was maintained by playing music videos of other bands popular with the youngsters, as well as songs to keep some adults happy. It was a hilarious sight watching half the stadium do the Macarena and sing Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies. We figured that the average age of girls there was 15, but the average age of people all together was about 30, considering for each kid, there were approximately 2 parents. I was blown away by the number of adults who were there without children. But to each, their own.
The opening act was a little disappointing – who is Johnny Apple? Surely there are better known local pop bands? I would have preferred Beatenburg or Goldfish. Mr Apple did sing well, and the band Four who joined for a short while were good too, but stage presence was a little lacking. Maybe it was just that nobody could have been as big as One Direction!
When they came onto the stage (sadly, without the best looking one, Zayn Malik, who has recently announced his resignation from the band), the stadium erupted into hysterical screams. It was deafening, and I thanked our organisational skills for remembering the earplugs, and inserting them into the girls’ ears before the mayhem. With 36 decibels blocked out, it was still wonderfully loud and exciting. And their eardrums remained intact, and their hearing undamaged. Harry, Liam, Niall and Loius were not going to disappoint.
In terms of the Zayn thang, I’ve heard so much hype that I’m desensitised. One parent at my school asked staff to keep an eye on his kid who was distraught that Zayn has left. Then there was cutting for Zayn, and rumours (thankfully all false – I checked) about hundreds of kids committing suicide as a result of his departure. Come on people! Firstly, the guy is having a breakdown – don’t put more pressure on him! Also, can you imagine living in a fishbowl every day? Not a nose pick or butt scratch going unnoticed? I think the people in charge of these young superstars don’t think too far ahead about the consequences of creating phenomena like Bieber or One Direction – and the impact that might have on their personal lives and their physical and mental well-being. And, of course, now every Suzie, Jane and Matilda feels like she personally knows these people, and is mortified by any unexpected occurrences. Thank god the boy didn’t die! And as our wise History teacher pointed out: last week saw 150 people die in a plane crash, Eishkom issues, petrol price hikes, political scandals, and the devastating effects of the latest terror attack. Perspective is so important!
So, how was the show? I was impressed. Those 4 boys can all sing, and they did! There was no question of the possibility that they were lip synching – there wasn’t a whole lot of background noise hiding their voices (besides the screaming fans, of course). It wasn’t a big, choreographed show like Bieber’s. The four of them used up the entire stage, and the ramp, which I thought was very generous – it wasn’t just the people at the front who got to see them up close. Their band was tight and they churned out hit after hit. I’m quite certain there were tears shed during Little Things and Kiss you. They left some of Zayn’s parts for the fans to sing. The encore included one of their biggest hits, Best Song Ever (sorry for the droves who left before the encore to beat the traffic). I don’t think any of the 60 000 people there could have been disappointed. And some of them were there for the second night in a row!
After that, there was a huge fireworks display, which I thought was a clever distraction while the stars escaped. My children loved the concert, and that makes me a very happy, if exhausted, mom. One Direction were slick and professional, while remaining fun, playful and generous with their fans. They professed their love for South Africa and promised (like they all do) to be back soon, and kept thousands of young girls’ hearts aflutter. And my children haven’t moaned once about the subsequent exhaustion – they feel it was worth while. I’d call it a job well done.