18 August 2015, Columbus, Ohio: I’m behind the wheel of an eight-passenger van pulling out of Ohio Stadium. The van is full of dirty laundry belonging to the band One Direction and their crew, and I had barely shifted into drive before security was forced to remove a throng of young women—including one in a full-length wedding gown with a poster board that said “MARRY ME, HARRY”—from the hood of the vehicle. Some of the fans had been standing outside since 6 a.m., and later that night, their reactions would give the decibel levels at any Beatles performance reasonable competition.

Backstage, though, the electric charge of...

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