I went to a Harry Styles concert. I did not lose a bet. I was not dragged into it by someone. I chose to go on my own volition. I regret nothing.
Styles’ self-titled album is fantastic, one of the most underrated albums of 2017. As a former member of the biggest boy band since *NSYNC and the best one until BROCKHAMPTON, you would expect his album would be some Bieber-esque piece of easy pop music.
On the contrary, Harry Styles was a classic rock album in the mold of Mick Jagger, David Bowie and Elton John. None of the ten tracks sound like they belong on the Billboard charts from the last 40 years.
A few weeks ago, I decided to buy cheap seats at the Capital One Arena and take in the Styles experience. My friend Cole and I had talked about the album over the past year so he came up from Durham, NC to see Harry.
The opener for Styles was Kacey Musgraves, whose new album Golden Hour, as reported on this blog, is one of the best albums of this year. Musgraves went on at 8 PM, walking up to the Beatles’ “Because.” The excitement for Musgraves was higher than expected, yet not even a quarter of the noise level reserved for the young Brit.
Musgraves was supported by a six-piece band of Nashville sessions and touring veterans. She played tracks off Hour plus “Follow Your Arrow,” from her debut album in honor of Pride. Musgraves hit the heartstrings with a powerfully-still rendition of “Rainbow.” She concluded with the funky “High Horse,” which included a disco-ball in the shape of a saddle.
Naively, I expected that the crowd would be more mature than a One Direction show based off the album. The large ring-like display lowered to hide the stage during set up for Styles. The screen presented an animated-suited version of Styles playing with a rubix cube. At that moment, we received a preview of a fraction of the screams we would endure.
It was at this point that I realized that I was, in fact, at a Harry Styles show. I often repeated this fact to Cole over the sounds of screaming. About 45 minutes after Musgraves set concluded, the lights went down and animated Styles figured out his rubix cube.
If and when I go deaf, I can pinpoint this as the moment my hearing took a turn for the worse. Now, Beatlemania preceded me by about 30 years, but the pandemonium as the screen raised and Styles appeared is the closest I’ll ever get to witnessing it.
The show began with “Only Angel,” which I predicted to Cole would be the opener based on it’s minute long intro and one of the few high energy tracks from the album. Styles wore a plaid suit, which looked comical on him, but way less comical than it would on nearly anyone else.
Sometimes, Styles appeared to be the reboot of Mick Jagger. He walked the stage with the same egotistical strut and hip shaking. Like Jagger, he was relishing the adoration the crowd poured on him. He was supported by a gender-equal four-piece band.
The large ring display over head displayed the Brit for those of us up in the nosebleeds. In the pit before the stage, fans gleefully bounced and pranced around with one another. An audience member in a banana suit who caught the attention of both Musgraves and Styles.
For the next hour and forty-five minutes, thousands of screaming people lost their mind at Styles every move. It was strange to watch people lose their minds at a 24-year-old, but it did make everyone more comfortable singing along. I did not feel embarrassed to know every word from the album. (I mean, I am now embarassed writing this, but at the time I was not.)
The set began with a string of five tracks from the debut album simmering down from “Angel.” He threw in a few One Direction tracks including the one I know. He covered Ariana Grande’s “Just A Little Bit of Your Heart,” which he wrote for her great 2014 album My Everything. (I had no idea Styles wrote his own songs, let alone for Grande.)
Near the end of his set, Styles played two songs with his guitarist on small stage near the back of the crowd. As he trekked down the middle of the crowd, he was expectedly swarmed by screaming fans emerging at the small stage with a bouquet of roses. (Of course someone was prepared to give him flowers.)
Styles returned to the stage to close the set. He concluded with the single “Sign of the Times,” which Cole said is “low-key anthem.” (Unfortunately, he didn’t fly as he did in the music video.) Afterwards, Styles descended into a trap door in the stage.
He returned maybe four minutes later. The encore began with the best song from the album, the somber “From The Dining Table.” To my excitement, he performed a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” He officially concluded with the fast and furious “Kiwi.”
By the end of the night, Cole and I were exhausted. The screaming and standing drained all our energy. Harry Styles has a bright future as a performer. “I’m excited for him to keep making more music,” said Cole. Hopefully, more adults will start to take him seriously and come to the shows, instead of those just taking their kids.
For now, we really did this with a full basketball arena of screaming children. We went to a Harry Styles show.