“Ohmygod! Ohmygod! Oh ... my ... God!” screamed the 23-year-old woman as Niall Horan arrived onstage Thursday night at the Minnesota State Fair grandstand.
He wasn’t even in the spotlight, hadn’t even sung a note and the screaming woman behind me burst into tears.
Boy bands have an expiration date. But apparently not mania for one of the boys in a boy band.
England’s One Direction, the latest boy band to matter, went on hiatus in January 2016. Since then, 1D’s Harry Styles has toured the world, packing arenas (including Xcel Energy Center in July) with his swagger like Jagger and rock-star persona. Now it’s Horan’s turn.
Regarded as the most musical member of 1D, and certainly the cutest with his enviable quiff, Irishman Horan, 24, is more of an acoustic strummer like Ed Sheeran or Shawn Mendes. He even dresses like the unpretentious college dude next door in a polo shirt and rolled-up jeans.
Horan seemed eminently likable, his music innocuously pleasant, his concert less memorable than Styles’ wow-that-guy-is-a-true-rock-star show.
But the 9,511 young women and teen girls sang along on every chorus, swooned from time to time (especially the woman behind me) and shouted their lungs out.
Horan definitely sparked more heat than Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers did in his post-boy band State Fair appearance in 2016. In fact, Thursday’s fans generated the shrillest screams heard at the grandstand since New Kids on the Block packed the place at their peak in 1989.
What elicited the biggest reactions was whenever Horan even approached a rock-star move or pose. Sometimes when the band’s electric guitarist took a solo, the singer would thrust his arm in the air, dance on one foot or spread his legs like Elvis.
“Oh my God!” responded my neighbor, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Not nearly as exciting was when Horan told the faithful that they were having more fun than people flying at 400 miles per hour on carnival rides and that he hadn’t felt energy “in a room like this” since his tour began in March. “Holy moly,” he declared.
Clearly, he didn’t have the gift of spontaneous gab like Styles. That’s OK; Horan seems more interested in reaching for young women’s heartstrings with his songs than in being a glib rock star.
Horan focused on material from his 2017 solo debut, “Flicker,” but did offer two One Direction tunes, a solo acoustic “Fool’s Gold” and the almost rockin’ “Drag Me Down.”
He threw in a cover of “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, whom he called one of his all-time favorites, but the young audience didn’t seem to know the song or Springsteen. More effective was an outtake from “Flicker” titled “So Long,” an Elton John-evoking number featuring Horan on piano.
One of Horan’s best moments came during “Seeing Blind,” his current duet with Maren Morris, his opening act. As they sang face to face, there was more palpable emotion from him even if it was something short of sparks.
During her own set, Morris, 28, impressed as a cross between Taylor Swift where she left off after “Fearless” and Beyoncé in her “Halo” period. Morris smartly concluded with the one-two punch of her big hits, the Grammy-winning country smash “My Church” and the current massive pop collaboration with Zedd, “The Middle,” which all the concertgoers knew even if they didn’t know she sang it.
Horan ended his concert with a bang, too: the aforementioned “Drag Me Down,” his solo radio favorite “Slow Hands” and “Mirrors,” during which the grandstand’s fireworks started exploding while he was still singing. And the screams and tears continued.
Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-17