On Thursday, September 28, I raced back to my room after class, slapped some pink glitter on my face, and hopped on the subway to 50th street. In a matter of hours, Harry Styles would play Radio City Music Hall – the fifth show of his solo tour. I had previously seen him on that stage in 2013, when One Direction recorded a performance of “Best Song Ever” for America’s Got Talent. On this night, though, it would be just Harry, his guitar, and his Gucci shoes.
An hour before the opening act, MUNA, took the stage, the best dressed crowd I’ve ever seen began to file into the theater. Many were surprised by the announcement that Harry was taking a small indie group on tour, but their offbeat pop songs were the perfect warm up before his classic rock set. What connects Harry and MUNA the most, is their message of love and acceptance. MUNA emphasized the need for the concert to be a safe space for the most marginalized groups, and praised Harry for building his career on kindness.
Finally, in all his drama, Harry took the stage. First appearing as a spotlighted silhouette behind a floral curtain, he began to sing a hypnotic acapella intro to “Ever Since New York.” The curtain dropped to reveal Harry, his band, and his red floral suit (an entity of its own) as they began the opening chords of the song. Next came “Two Ghosts,” Harry’s latest, Pink Floyd-inspired single. These two songs showed a more reserved side of the singer, a drastic contrast from the character that began to strut across the stage to “Carolina.” Both Harrys are equally captivating – a testament to his superhuman strengths as a performer. These are exemplified in “Only Angel,” as he expertly worked the audience, soaring from one side of the stage to the other. Halfway through the song, Harry plucked a pride flag from the audience and skipped about with it. The flag belonged to a classmate of mine, Pilar, who told me she “still can’t process what happened,” and that she’s “forever touched and grateful.”
With only 10 songs to his name, something he jokingly pointed out, Harry had to fill some slots with covers. He put his spin on One Direction classics “What Makes You Beautiful” and “Story of My Life,” much to the delight of the audience. He also played his rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” a song he penned himself, and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as an encore. In between covers he returned to songs from his debut: the beautifully understated “Meet Me in the Hallway” and the not-so-understated “Woman.”
The pièce de résistance of any Harry Styles show is the finale – “Kiwi.” ‘Finale’ should be said tentatively, though, because Harry often stops Kiwi midway through, demanding more from the audience. He did exactly that at Radio City, and his crowd willingly complied. Two times apparently wasn’t enough, however, because after playing “Sign of the Times,” the show’s typical final encore, Harry began a speech explaining that representatives from his record label, Columbia, were in the audience. He voiced his desire for “Kiwi” to be the next single despite their naysaying. “I’d like to suggest it a little more…” he said before launching into a third performance of the fan favorite. I did the math – “I’m having your baby/it’s none of your business” was sung exactly 28 times that night.
I was prepared to wait on long merch lines, bear the blisters that would inevitably come with my best leather boots, and listen to the familiar, but still deafening screams. What I was not prepared for were the tears that uninvitedly surprised me during “Ever Since New York.” They were few and brief, but sometime over the course of the song, I realized that our lives have followed a similar trajectory. No, I was not in an internationally successful, record-breaking boyband, but I did grow up with them. Now, One Direction are ‘on hiatus’ and I’ve gone to college and moved to New York City. As Harry steps out on his own, I do too. There’s a vulnerability to Harry’s performance – another element of his magnetic stage presence, a product of nervousness, or both. No matter where it derives from, it’s what makes him so intriguing to watch. He’s a rockstar through and through, but he still manages to feel relatable and grounded, even in head-to-toe custom Gucci. This is the magic of a Harry Styles show, a kind of magic everyone should experience.
By: Hannah Zwick