THEY came, they saw, they led fans in the right direction for a night of pop fun.
Despite the rain, despite the threatened Metro strikes, despite the controversial leaked video of alleged drug use by two fifths of One Direction, nothing could dampen fans’ fervour as the band launched onto the Stadium of Light stage.
They’re hailed as the biggest band in the world, but would they live up to the hype?
Just under 52,000 fans and the nation’s music media flocked to the home of the Black Cats to see the five-piece open the UK leg of their mammoth Where We Are world tour.
Deafening screams and fireworks welcomed their arrival on stage as they opened with Midnight Memories.
There wasn’t the razzmatazz of Take That’s appearances at the stadium, nor the racy moves of Rihanna - just five casually-dressed lads, who wouldn’t look out of place in The Bridges on a Saturday afternoon, singing a selection of ballads and a sprinkling of more up-tempo tracks.
There were moments of added sparkle thanks to red and white ticker tape which showered the stands and a brightly-lit set. But, despite the lack of spectacle, it did the trick for the band’s adoring fan base whose screams rang out around the sell-out crowd.
The biggest ear-piercing shrieks were reserved for floppy-haired Harry as the young Directioners hung on his every word.
He could have sung the phone book and they would have whooped but, instead, he, Zayn, Niall, Liam and Louis worked their way through a pick’n’mix of tracks from the past four years including Strong, Alive, Live While We’re Young and Moments.
But it wasn’t Harry who proved the most charismatic. Niall, who was last week pictured wearing a SAFC strip running around the pitch at rehearsals, had the most character.
He made the most shout-outs to the crowd and seemed the most humbled by the experience. “I’ve been to Sunderland many times to watch football games,” he yelled in his Irish lilt. “And this is one of my favourite stadiums in England.” Maybe he says that at every stadium, but it helped to endear him even more to the ardent fans who’d waited months for this moment, especially as he kept punctuating his addresses to the audience with “why aye” and “Ha’way the lads.”
It was a short set - around an hour and 45 minutes - and many tracks seemed to blend into one another. More excitement was provided by an encore which featured some of their more memorable hits - Story of My Life, Little White Lies and Best Song Ever.
No mention was made of the opinion-dividing video leaked on the day of the gig, but then we never expected them to. One Direction have made their millions playing it safe and this gig was testament to that.