Between “Moving Along” and “She’s Kinda Hot,” Ashton Irwin, the 5 Seconds of Summer drummer, cracks a joke. “Where’s the f–king beach? I get out of the bus in my flip flops and there’s no beach!” We all laugh, our voices already cracking from screaming along to the first three songs. For their fifth show on the Meet You There tour, 5 Seconds of Summer played Virginia Beach’s Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater, miles from any sign of the actual beach.
5SOS formed seven years ago and I’ve been a fan for six of those.
After they took a two-year break, I couldn’t have been more stoked to hear they were coming out with a new album and touring again. I immediately bought tickets to the Virginia Beach show and pre-ordered the signed CD.
5 Seconds of Summer’s new album Youngblood brought about a new era for the men. Over their break, they grew as individuals and as a band. As a fan that’s been with them since the beginning, I welcome their new sound and image. The band outgrew their ripped tees and replaced them with expensive designer button ups, just as they exchanged their poppy high-school-aimed lyrics for drunk-on-heartbreak, touch-the-soul beats that run like expensive wine through the veins. Throughout this transition, these men kept their smiles and their laughter, their love for music, their fans and each other. This aura of love and dedication set a platform for their magnetic performance.
Before 5SOS came on, The Aces rocked their opening set. Alisa Ramirez on the drums smiled brilliantly throughout their set. Cristal Ramirez danced her way out of her suit jacket while McKenna Petty and Katie Henderson rocked out on either side of the stage. Their pure joy brought all our excitement bubbling to the next level. That excitement exploded the moment 5 Seconds of Summer stepped on stage.
A girl immediately screamed, “I love you, Michael Clifford!” so loudly my ears started ringing, but I couldn’t blame her. To see your favorite musician right in front of you, not a picture or video but physically there, makes you feel delirious on the realization that they’re real. In high school, when these men were first discovering themselves, I definitely had a celebrity crush or two. I had tickets to their tour in 2015 but missed it last second and now I stood in the pit, three people away from the band that stayed with me through the wildest times of my life. Absolutely unreal.
Still, even with how much excitement I already had for the show, 5 Seconds of Summer blew me away. They didn’t put on just a show, they hosted an experience.
Calum Hood, the bassist, kicked off the set with “Babylon,” setting the tone for the entire night. He practically lit the fuse to dynamite contained within sweaty bodies crowding the stadium. Immediately, everyone sang at the top of their lungs. All the complaints about the heat and crowdedness disappeared into pure euphoria.
During Irwin’s solo in“Meet You There”, it felt like he played from inside my chest. Each beat of the drum vibrated down to my toes until I jumped so much my ankles threatened to break.
Clifford crouched at the edge of the stage, singing an intimate and electrifying remix of “The Only Reason” into the microphone. In 90-degree heat, drenched in sweat, I shivered. “The Only Reason” released four years ago, had been a staple on all my high school playlists, but this new version ignited the very marrow within my bones.
Luke Hemmings took over “Lie to Me” on piano, a change from his usual guitar. As it started, no one screamed. No one clapped. Everyone just sang. The entire audience sang along, creating a harmony of voices echoing back to us:
“You look happy, Ohh…”
I could hear the drum beat that wasn’t there, with everyone’s hearts synced to create it, even as Irwin sat back and listened to everyone sing.
5 Seconds of Summer created an environment that connected everyone in the audience. Fans who’d been around since the beginning and fresh-faced fans, parents who came with their children, significant others who joined their loves, we were all together as one during the concert. The pit moved in waves, drawn like tides to the guys as they moved with their music. Hood and Clifford drifted from center to edge, Hemmings stepped forward or drifted back or Irwin raised his hands into the air, the crowd followed their lead. Hood and Clifford switched sides of the stage during the encore, bringing a new peak of hysteria to the crowd. We raised our hands in the air. We jumped. We danced.
All of our movement made it hard to see but Andy Deluca, 5SOS’s masterful photographer, popped up around the stage to capture the views we missed. Spotting him as he snapped photos brought the same giddiness as finishing a Where’s Waldo puzzle in elementary school. He came out before the show to film the crowd and a chant started up: “Andy! Andy! Andy!” He waved us off bashfully and took more pictures.
Andy creates all the tour videos and snaps the best shots, creating an aesthetic perfectly emulating the emotions 5SOS’s songs create. He deserves so much credit; if I had tried to take pictures of every great moment of the show, I would’ve ended up with a flipbook and still missed great moments.
Every song pulled my smile further and further up my cheeks, my heart further and further from my chest. It nearly broke as Hemmings sang the chorus to “Why Won’t You Love Me.” I listened to that song hundreds of times, without exaggeration, before the concert. Yet hearing it live, in person, I may as well have been hearing it for the first time.
As the band exited the stage the first time, a roar rose in the crowd. Stomping feet, clapping hands and chanting yells swirled into a hurricane under the night sky. My heart beat in my ears as I watched the edge of the stage, waiting for the band to run back out.
I sang along to every song, every word. I sang—even though I haven’t sung in public since eighth grade chorus—and I didn’t stop even as my voice gave out. Every single lyric raises the energy, jolting the audience with fire, electricity, life. 5 Seconds of Summer draws their energy from the crowd and the crowd feeds off their energetic performance in response.
Only when I walked toward the merch table, toward the parking lot, did I notice how every muscle in my body ached. I’d been sweating ridiculously and crying glitter eyeliner. None of that mattered though as the last noise of the concert rung in my ears. I don’t have the words to describe how amazing the concert was and wouldn’t have had the voice to say them if I did.
If you ever can see 5 Seconds of Summer live, DO IT. They have mastered putting on an experience that anyone can enjoy, no matter what seat you’re in, how long you’ve been a fan or how many times you’ve seen them. Every dollar, every cent, spent on your tickets will be worth it. 5SOS controls the stage with a vibrant power that has to be experienced in person. They command the crowd with a confidence and magic that brings the entire world into focus. For one night, 5 Seconds of Summer melts away all the problems of the outside world. You lose yourself in their radiant music, stellar stage presences and all out alluring atmosphere. For one of the best nights of your life, just buy a 5SOS ticket.