Review: One Direction's gig in Dublin's Croke Park
Croke Park is a significant location in the One Direction story. It was here, four years ago, that the then 16-year-old Niall Horan first auditioned for The X Factor.
Thanks to his showing on that TV series, the Mullingar teenager was teamed with four English hopefuls and they soon became the world's biggest boyband.
Each of the three One Direction albums to date has topped the US charts and they have just returned from a big-league stadium tour of South America.
Croke Park's vertiginous stands, therefore, do not represent a huge leap from the sort of venue they have been used to playing this year, but it's clearly an emotional homecoming of sorts for Horan, who wraps himself in a tricolour early on and dons an Irish rugby jersey for the encore.
Yet, despite the quintet's (right) ascendancy to the stadium circuit and their willingness to imbue their bubble-gum pop with some rock elements, there is ample evidence that such an enormous setting is a reach too far.
The frequently muddy sound certainly doesn't help and nor does their tendency to indulge in long bouts of banter, but it's the lightweight structure of their material that lets them down most.
And while there's no shortage of energy — as you would expect from young men aged 20 and 21 — there just isn't the sort of U2-like showmanship that is necessary to make such a huge setting work.
Right from the start, they attempt to calibrate their songs to match the setting but are only fleetingly successful.
Opener ‘Midnight Memories’ is boisterous and bombastic, even though the screams of the predominantly young and female crowd coupled with the liberal use of fireworks make a true assessment difficult.
Both the fans and the pyrotechnics have calmed down by the time they perform the anthemic ‘Rock Me’ and the song provides a clue as to why they've enjoyed such success: it's insidiously catchy and playful and manages to speak to both strands of their audience — teenage girls and kids still at primary school.
Many of the standard boyband trappings are dispensed with — not least the tyranny of the costume change — although their rock stylings often feel terribly laboured. Horan wears a guitar for much of the show, but it's difficult to discern how often he gets around to playing with it.
Still, he brings considerable charm to ‘Don't Forget Where You Belong’, which he describes as his favourite song, and there's much to like about his contribution to crowd favourite ‘Story of My Life’, which is aired in the triumphant closing moments of the set.