When 16-year-old Harry Styles auditioned for The X Factor in 2010 he wanted to be a solo artist. Seven years later, he has just embarked on his first solo world tour. Three shows in, he is taking the USA by storm. Playing his first three dates in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Nashville, Harry has already received phenomenal reviews from the likes of Rolling Stone and Variety, with Billboard naming him “a true rockstar”. Good start then.
The Harry Styles World Tour kicked off at San Francisco’s historic The Masonic. Though Harry could (and has) easily sell out arenas globally, he has emphasised his desire to start his tour in smaller venues which One Direction never got to perform in. He is making an effort to start his solo career authentically, but a fresh start doesn’t mean total erasure of his One Direction past, and Harry is making a conscious effort to pay homage to 1D. The first show saw him perform One Direction’s iconic first hit ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ as well as putting a rockstar twist on one of his personal 1D favourites ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
Rolling Stone complimented Harry for this, saying “Styles has proven time and time again that to be a successful solo artist you don’t necessarily have to let go or even erase your past.” Harry has repeatedly professed to interviewers that he is proud of his time in One Direction. Not under any illusions, he knows that he wouldn’t be where he is today without that band. He is also humbly aware that he may never reach those kind of heights again, and that’s okay. Though, judging by the success of his solo album, we don’t think he’s going to be right on that one.
To sum up the first show with three stand-out aspects would be: 1D hits, rainbow flag, SUIT. Harry is truly himself on this tour and that means AMAZING wacky suits (courtesy of Harry Lambert, we see you), questionable dancing and an admirable show of solidarity with the LGBT+ community, which earned him a Twitter Moments Feature.
During his performance of ‘Woman’, Harry subversively waved the rainbow flag “in direct opposition to the song’s heteronormative storyline,” as Rolling Stone noted. The Nashville show, the third on the tour, saw Harry make a special effort to return a pride flag that had been removed. At Harry’s shows, there is space for everyone.
One Direction covers (if we can call them that) aren’t the only covers Harry will perform on this tour. Harry has added his own rendition of ‘Just a Little Bit of Your Heart’, the song he co-wrote for Ariana Grande, to the set-list. Since the song’s release three years ago, fans have been eagerly waiting for Harry to perform it and he certainly didn’t disappoint. In an Instagram comment, Ariana herself said “this has always been my favorite version !!! i’m so happy you got to hear it this way”. Harry also reprised his Fleetwood Mac cover of ‘The Chain’ which earned him much respect and even converted a few sceptics into fans after his performance in Radio 1’s Live Lounge.
Following the San Francisco opener, Harry moved on to The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and, after a quick stop at the iHeart Radio Festival in Las Vegas, the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. In Nashville, he switched ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ for a flawless cover of Little Big Town’s ‘Girl Crush’ and the internet is feeling pretty emotional right now. To date, Harry has covered music from Kanye West to Fleetwood Mac to Rihanna. He just keeps getting better and better.
Harry’s concerts have been opened by all-female electro-pop trio MUNA who will support Harry for the remainder of his US and European dates this autumn. Lead singer Katie Gavin was full of praise for H, saying “Harry has built his career, his essence, on kindness,” something we’ve witnessed since the beginning of One Direction’s career. Harry was always the one to make the effort to shake hands and introduce himself to everyone in the room, often helping to tidy up after performances. This humility is refreshing to see in any artist, even more so in the rock star that Harry is shaping into.
Harry knows that he shares his dedication to spreading kindness with his fans, which is why he has focussed his merchandise around the same ideal. On stands outside the show, fans can purchase t-shirts, notebooks and pin badges reading “Treat People With Kindness” along with sugary pink jumpers that continue the floral innocence and self-conscious subversive-streak of the album artwork.
In addition to MUNA, Harry was also joined by country artist Cam in Nashville, who captured the essence of what Harry’s concerts are about. She tweeted:
Harry your fans are INCREDIBLE! Being in that Church surrounded by so many strong women. Thank you for letting me be a part of that magic ?
— Cam (@camcountry) September 26, 2017
Perhaps the most heart-warming highlights of Harry’s tour so far are those moments when he pauses, steps back from the mic and the crowd sing his lyrics back to him. This is something you’d expect from an established artist whose songs have been around for years, but Harry, only four months after his album’s release, has the crowd wrapped around his little finger. The audience is captivated and the whole show works out to be a conversation between him and them.
What we are witnessing is a true superstar emerging, if he wasn’t one already. But in many ways Harry isn’t just a superstar rock star. He’s so much more than that. He’s caring and sincere and in touch with his fans in a way that rock stars before him have never been. And he does it all without being active on social media 24/7. Amongst his contemporaries Harry is unusually silent online, but he knows his fans better than most artists; he takes time out to talk to crowd-members directly, he laughs with them, listens to them, even calls them his “best friends”, he is accessible to them. He has the glamorous swagger of a rock star without the arrogance, and a genuine relationship with his fans, unfiltered by an excessive social media presence. It seems as though it’s working out to be the perfect combination.
If you’re lucky enough to be seeing Harry on tour this autumn, here’s what you can expect from the setlist:
“Ever Since New York”
“Stockholm Syndrome” OR “Girl Crush” (Little Big Town)
“Meet Me in the Hallway”
“Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” (Ariana Grande)
“What Makes You Beautiful”
“From the Dining Table”
“The Chain” (Fleetwood Mac)
“Sign of the Times”