HOLMDEL — When PNC Bank Arts Center erupted into a deluge of blood-curdling screams of adulation Sunday night, it could only mean one thing — 5 Seconds of Summer had taken the stage.
Or so one might have thought.
Later, when the band was in full swing and bassist Calum Hood requested that the audience scream on his own, the volume rose to altogether deafening levels.
Such is the feverishly dedicated fan base the Australian four-piece has built across the globe since its inception in 2011. The group sells out stadiums filled with fans that mimic One Direction with their passion.
In an audience that mostly comprised tweens and their parents, hundreds brought along colorful cutout hearts to shine their phone flashlights through — each one bearing the name of their favorite band member — and elaborately decorated signs, one of which read, “Are we punk rock yet?”
Not even close, but that isn’t necessarily meant to knock the group.
Diehard 5SOS have been desperately trying to reject the “boy band” label for years now, some even going as far as calling the guys punk-rockers.
But while most of the songs on its records skew toward pop, 5SOS still managed to sharpen a few edges on its live repertoire. Much of this energy was credited to drummer Ashton Irwin, who stole the show with boundless, powerful playing.
Irwin, bolstered by tight camera work and a fierce light display, helped elevate the set from bubblegum pop to something closer to the power-pop of The Romantics — for its finale, 5SOS covered the 1980 hit “What I Like About You.”
Brooding guitarist Michael Clifford, known for his facial piercings and wild hairstyles, dominated the second half of the evening, while center heartthrob and “frontman” Luke Hemmings was all but forgettable.
Clifford stared stone-faced out into the crowd as the camera zoomed in on him and fans’ screaming intensified. After a full minute, he finally broke — his smirk prompted even louder praise. The ego inflation went on for minutes — too many minutes — before he began the emotional ballad “Jet Black Heart.”
Self-indulgence aside, Clifford showed his sweet side, too.
“There’s a lot of s*** happening in the world that’s pretty f***ed up,” he said before strumming the opening chords to “Vapor.” “The next song we’re going to play is a love song. We should all celebrate love tonight.”
The playful banter between Clifford and Hood throughout the night was endearing, whether the two laughed as they jammed together or chatted between songs. When Clifford told the audience he thought Hood looked good, they expectedly ate it up.
One of the night’s highlights was an emotional rendition of the nostalgic hit “Amnesia,” which has garnered more than 103 million plays on Spotify alone. All four guys took a turn at the mic, but it was Hood whose soaring vocals earned the most accolades from the crowd.
Despite receiving shrieks and screams at their every move, the guys in 5SOS don’t seem jaded — or at least they pretend not to be.
“I didn’t think this many people were going to be here tonight,” Hemmings said, knowing full-well it would be a full house. The show didn’t sell out, but it was tough to find an empty seat in the venue, which holds 17,500.
“There’s crowds, and then there’s you,” Irwin said.
They must say that to all the girls.
THE SET LIST
- “Carry On”
- “Hey Everybody!”
- “Voodoo Doll”
- “Don’t Stop”
- “Long Way Home”
- “Outer Space”
- “Waste the Night”
- “Jet Black Heart”
- “End Up Here”
- “Good Girls”
- “Permanent Vacation”
- “What I Like About You” (The Romantics cover)
- “She’s Kinda Hot”
- “She Looks so Perfect”
*This story was originally published on NJ.com.