UK-based boy band The Wanted have only released one song in America. Yet as they powered through their hour-long set on the stage of Irving Plaza on Sunday night in New York City, there wasn’t a single song performed that didn’t have the entire audience loudly chanting along, word for word.
Clearly, they’ve already built up quite the following.
After debuting at #1 in the UK with their first single “All Time Low” in July of 2010, The Wanted have only skyrocketed to the top of the UK charts for nearly two years straight, producing hit single after single, a second album in 2011 called Battleground (which debuted at #5 in the UK Albums Chart), and an upcoming arena tour in 2012 (which, as the boys told me, they have exactly 3 days to rehearse for after returning to the UK after the remaining dates on their U.S. tour.)
The venue was packed wall to wall with some of The Wanted’s greatest North American diehards, including shaking and crying tweens wearing custom-made tees and twenty somethings lifting up handmade signs. Despite the fact that The Wanted have probably played less than 10 gigs in America, the palpable energy buzzing inside the room suggested that The Jonas Brothers were about to come out on stage–as if anyone else needed proof that international boundaries matter less and less in the music industry today.
After the third or fourth rallying call of “Wanted! Wanted! Wanted!” from the crowd around 8:45 P.M., Max, Tom, Jay, Nathan and Siva finally took to the stage with “Behind Bars,” one of the album tracks from their debut UK album.
The boys powered through an eclectic set filled with smash hit UK singles including “Lightning,” “Heart Vacancy,” “Gold Forever,” “Glad You Came,” and “All Time Low, ” as well as some covers (Neon Trees‘ “Animal”, The Goo Goo Dolls‘ “Iris”) and a few album tracks, including one of my favorite non-singles off of each album: The Wanted‘s “Say It On The Radio” and Battleground‘s “Invincible.”
Their newer dance-pop productions–already pulse-raising enough in record form–turned into major anthemic moments in concert including “Lightning,” which briefly converted the floor of Irving Plaza into a full-on rave, as fists thrashed and feet lifted wildly from the floor.
Throughout the show, the boys ragged on each other and excitedly gabbed about being on tour in America. At one point, they harped on Nathan for being single: “Any girls here want to go on a date with Nathan?” one of the boys jeered at one point. The question wasn’t even finished before his words were drowned out by the squeals of a thousand lovestruck girls–err, and boys. “What about boys?!” demanded my friend from the audience as several turned around and nodded in scorned agreement.
Truly, The Wanted have an undeniably infectious charm live: By the second or third song in, the energy in the room was positively euphoric. Even those in the back lining the bar at the start of their set slowly crept their way closer to the stage, bobbing their heads and attempting to sing along while jumping excitedly during the many crashing dance breaks.
Regardless of how many songs anyone knew, or whether or not we got to kiss Nathan (one girl did!), everyone in the room was clearly having an incredible time–especially the ones on stage.
To me, The Wanted have always represented a New Generation of boy bands: They don’t bother engaging in cheesy choreography, they don’t take a seat on wooden stools when they’re ‘having a serious moment’ with a ballad, and they’re a little bit rougher around the edges than the impeccably styled cookie-cutter boy bands of the late ’90’s/early ’00’s.
As the group returned to the stage for an encore performance of “Glad You Came,” their lead U.S. single (which currently sits at #29 on Mediabase and is only continuing to rise), the boys broke out dozens of water bottles: “You might want to put away your phones,” they warned before suddenly sending streams of water into the shrieking crowd from every direction, finally turning the water bottles on themselves, hopping offstage, and trashing around with the audience, now entirely soaked. No one seemed to mind.
Sure, we’re still a long ways away from the busted lips and broken guitars of a punk rock show, but they’re still a little more unhinged than the typically manicured pop production. Undoubtedly, that’s what makes them all the more wanted.
“Glad You Came” was released on October 18. (iTunes)