The On the Road Again tour, just by name, could hint at where the boys of One Direction are at these days mentally, emotionally and physically. Having spent the better part of this decade on tour, the band is showing signs of wear and exhaustion. Hair is evolving from intentionally messy to actually messy. Tattoo quantity is eclipsing tattoo quality. Their youthful sparkle is waning, and they appear to be aging at a rate typically reserved for heads of state.
Nonetheless, there is a job to do in every city that Harry, Louis, Liam and Niall are shuttled to, and that job is to delight young fans. In Vancouver last night, it was a job well done, but only just so. The boys were gracious and affable, but their energy level was about the lowest level acceptable for an arena show of this magnitude.
The guys can hardly be blamed for this, though. In 2010, Simon Cowell saw five fresh-faced talents cross the X-Factor UK stage and, in his brilliance, packaged them up into One Direction. Since then, instant mega-success and the insane life of non-stop recording, touring, appearing and promoting that comes with it has been their reality. None of the original five had even turned 20 before being thrust headfirst into such a demanding public existence.
It’s no surprise then that Zayn Malik called it quits barely two months into this world tour, their fourth in as many years. His final show was March 18th in Hong Kong, and since then 1D has been a foursome. “I feel like I’ve let the fans down but I can’t do this anymore,” said Zayn to the UK’s The Sun. “It is crazy and wild and a bit mad but, at the same time, I’ve never felt more in control in my life.”
One Direction played a long setlist of songs and had the BC Place crowd singing along to each one. They don’t really dance, and the stage visuals were more basic than what could be reasonably expected from one of the top-grossing concert tours of the year. Their presence alone, however, was surely enough for a majority of the fans in the house. History has not prescribed long shelf lives for supergroups once they lose a member, so time will tell whether or not the guys get on the road again once On the Road Again wraps its final two legs.