On March 18th, One Direction played a show at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld Arena. The crowd was relatively small, but the South China Morning Post described a scene of “mass hysteria” that began even before the band took the stage. The set was filled with catchy tunes and the boys were predictably charming, but there was one person in the building who didn’t appear to share in the enthusiasm.
“Perhaps Zayn Malik was too busy focusing on getting his notes pitch perfect to engage with the crowd, or maybe he was stressing about his overly manicured hair, but he struggled to smile even once,” reported Lucy Christie. “His apathetic attitude was a notable crack in the otherwise polished performance.” The next day, he announced that he would be leaving the tour, and within a week, he had quit the band.
As expected, the show continued. The group’s On the Road Again Tour is booked for seven legs, and after leaving Asia, One Direction played dates in South Africa and the Middle East. They are currently traveling through continental Europe. “We all miss having one of our best mates around, obviously,” says Niall Horan. “We’re still going onstage every night and having the best time of our lives with our incredible fans, so from that point of view, nothing has changed.”
Those fans may notice some updated moves, but Horan says that these won’t be related to Malik’s departure. “We have a few surprises,” he continues, discussing the forthcoming North American leg, which begins in July. “Most importantly, we will be rehearsing new songs which we are very excited to perform live for the first time.”
Since beginning the tour in Sydney, Australia, on February 7th, the band has been starting its sets with “Clouds,” a thumping synth-rock deep cut off last year’s Four. “We always felt ‘Clouds’ has a real ‘stadium’ sound and is great to perform live,” Horan says. “It also gets a great reaction as it opens the show.” His other favorite songs? “Where Do Broken Hearts Go,” “Girl Almighty” (which usually appears just before the encore) and “Little White Lies” (which they play after returning to the stage).
One Direction reach the United States on July 9th, playing San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. They then bounce between the U.S. and Canada until September 12th, when they end at Massachusetts’ Foxborough Stadium before flying back to the U.K. Icona Pop opens all North American dates. Horan promises that no matter the lineup, fans should expect “the usual One Direction madness onstage.”