NEW YORK — "My dad always told me that once you play Madison Square Garden, then you know you've made it," British songwriter Ed Sheeran said Monday night in front of thousands of Directioners. Given that the tickets only declared a "special guest" as One Direction's opener, Sheeran's performance came as sort of a surprise. But he claimed he was only doing because he was swinging by NYC. "I was in town anyway."
Our favorite boy band 1D echoed the sentiment of their red-headed pal, stopping in between every song to thank fans for their success (two and a half years since "X Factor" and counting!). "I'm going to get emotional," Louis began after the guys opened the show with "Up All Night." Before Louis or his bandmates could shed tears of joy, they moved on to "Na Na Na" and "Stand Up," while footage of the world-traveling musicians rolled behind them — maybe that B-roll will make it to One Direction's 3-D movie!
Backed by a four-piece band and dressed in variations of black, white and red tees and button downs (all except Liam, who sported a questionable red bib), One Direction didn't let the pressure of their first arena-sized headlining show in America get to them. They were still their goofy, zany selves, running up and sliding down the ramps that connected the stage's two tiers. Their awkward onstage grooving had fans screaming and swooning nonstop for well over an hour. They may not dance like Justin Bieber, but their silly moves were just as scream-inducing at the Biebs' carefully choreographed ones. At one point, the fivesome had the entire arena doing their signature rowboat move, paddling in unison.
"I'm from a small town called Bradford. Things like this don't happen to me," Zayn said a few songs deep. As he scanned the audience, the decibel level at MSG could've shattered glass. "This place is bloody huge," Harry continued. Smoke blanketed the stage, and as 1D reemerged from the dry-ice clouds, they crooned Up All Night's "More Than This." Liam sat serenading fans while Niall scurried up the stage ramp, doing a lap around the set before it was time to sing his verse.
The arena went black, and Directioners beckoned their idols to return with the only way they know how — with shrieks and wails and protesting chants. Beginning with a low rumbling, the music started again. Piercing yellow lasers shot into the air and techno synths turned the venue into a dance club, amping up the fans for "Live While We're Young." The singers returned with new swag — denim jackets, blazers, blue jeans and matching crisp white sneaks that were so new they probably just bought them across the street at Macy's.
Before we knew it, the 1D members were answering our Twitter questions, with topics ranging from chicken attacks to a jumping competition to judging which section was the loudest (I'm happy to report that I contributed to the winning section). Perhaps the most gossip-worthy question singled out Harry, asking the shaggy-haired Brit to invent an animal mating call. But instead of glancing to his rumored public girlfriend Taylor Swift in the audience, he just said, "Hi, I'm the real Liam Payne." Funny joke, Harry, but we wanted the scoop on your romance!
Tiny spotlights formed polka dots on the backs of the five guys as they floated into "Moments" and then "I Want." At the end of "Save You Tonight," Zayn, Harry, Louis, Liam and Niall dove into the crowd, immersing themselves in everything about the evening that Liam dubbed the "best night of my life." Don't worry, 1D made it out of the crowd alive.
Ed joined his friends, dangling their legs over the edge of the stage while singing "Little Things," one of the two songs Sheeran contributed to Take Me Home. The song showcased the simplicity in Niall's voice, the grit in Harry's and the sweetness of Louis'. Zayn and Louis showed off the smooth fluidity in their voices too.
Ending the show with "One Thing," "Kiss You" and "C'mon C'mon," Harry and the gang toasted a successful Stateside show their first worldwide hit.
"If you're a parent and you don't know the words to any of the songs, you're going to know this one," Harry said as he introduced "What Makes You Beautiful." True: my mom had recited the song's lyrics to me hours before on the phone.
Confetti drifted from the high ceiling and clear plastic beach balls tumbled down from above. Fans threw their arms over their heads as if they were welcoming a long awaited downpour or a hug from Zayn himself. With the arena packed with outstretched arms and resonating with the last few lines of their very catchy chorus, it didn't matter who was singing along with their songs in Madison Square Garden.
"This is why we came to America," they said.
Who was at the show? Tell us your favorite moment in the comments, Directioners!