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Former boyband member turned solo superstar Harry Styles blessed Sydney with an intimate gig at the Enmore Theatre last night.
It was the first of two shows he’s doing to promote his debut solo album down under, marking the first time he’s toured Australia since One Direction (RIP) did a stadium tour in 2015. So, considering the Enmore Theatre has the capacity to host only 1,600 people and tickets sold out in literally seconds, fans couldn’t help feeling like they were the chosen ones.
Some punters had camped out for days to score spots in the front row, so the theatre was well and truly packed by the time support act Maddy Jane hit the stage. In her short-but-sweet set, the Tasmanian bashed out a bunch of rock n’ roll bangers including ‘People’, ‘Drown It Out’ and her new single ‘Thank You And I’m Sorry’. Although the crowd cheered and clapped politely, there was no doubt that they were counting down the minutes until Harry hit the stage.
Once the lights went down again, the crowd erupted in an eardrum-shattering scream, as a spotlight glowing on the pastel pink curtain revealed the angelic silhouette of Harry Edward Styles. The screams surely broke all decibel laws when the curtain dropped, and the British heartthrob broke into ‘Ever Since New York’. Rocking his signature swoon-inducing mop and a tailored peach suit, Harry and his four-piece band bewitched the crowd from the very first note.
Harry powered on to ‘Two Ghosts’, an acoustic track that’s rumoured to be about his brief but infamous relationship with Taylor Swift. As the crowd echoed back every lyric, he couldn’t help but ditch his cool onstage persona to break into a grin. By the time the song finished, it was clear this wasn’t the type of gig where the crowd reserved their singing for big hits and singles. It’s been six months since Harry dropped his album, so fans have had plenty of time to memorise every word of the sacred text.
After easing into the show with two slow jams, Harry quickly turned things up a notch with the funky ‘Carolina’. Not only did he showboat the flawless vocal abilities we’ve come to expect, but he also flaunted his new-found guitar skills.
A nice change from the stadiums and arenas he’s used to touring, the smaller venue also meant that Harry could interact more with fans. Whether he was pausing to make sure the crowd was ok (“If we could reduce the swaying, that might stop people from falling over,” he laughed) to recognising longtime fans from his 1D days (“You’re much bigger than the last time I saw you… but you can’t come in here looking that sharp!” he said to a nine-year-old fan named Abraham), he took every opportunity he could to acknowledge, thank and encourage the fans.
“Feel free to be whoever you want to be in this room tonight,” he said before easing into the incredibly enchanting ‘Sweet Creature’.
As Harry currently has only one solo album under his belt, he quickly smashed through the tracklist with tunes like ‘Meet Me In The Hallway’, the infectious and pheromone-conjuring ‘Woman’ and crowd favourite ‘Only Angel’. During the latter, he showed off some of his best dad dance moves and every gyration of the hips and flip of the hair was welcomed with a deafening roar from the crowd. He even pulled out some rhythmic choreography as he swirled around with two giant rainbow flags which were thrown on stage. After this, Harry took a few minutes to congratulate Sydney on the fabulous result of the recent marriage equality survey.
“The presence of some colourful flags can’t be ignored,” he said, as several punters waved little rainbow flags with pride. “May I say a massive congratulations to your country for waking up.”
Now that he’d almost exhausted most of the tracks from his debut album, Harry shook up the setlist with his version of ‘Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart’ (a song he wrote for Ariana Grande a few years back) and ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ (from One Direction’s 2014 album FOUR). But the 1D throwbacks didn’t end there.
“If you knew the words to that one, then you’d better know the words to this,” he said before breaking into ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. It was a more sophisticated and rock n’ roll rendition of One Direction’s breakthrough hit, and easily one of the best moments of the night.
‘Kiwi’, the latest single from the record, was also a literal showstopper. Before Harry even had time to sing “she worked her way through a cheap pack of cigarettes,” he burst into laughter and asked the band to stop playing.
“Your face when that song started was my favourite thing I’ve seen all tour,” he said, pointing to a fan in the front row. “I may cry,” he added, although the massive grin across his dimpled cheeks said otherwise. Once they dove back in, Harry’s voice was almost drowned out by the crowd, and the floor was shaking with the force of 1,600 people dancing with reckless abandon.
With only just over 10 minutes left on the clock, Harry launched into a three-song encore, including the beautifully lamenting ‘From The Dining Table’ as well as a stellar cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’. However, it was his debut single ‘Sign Of The Times’ which was the perfect bookend to the night.
As Harry crooned “Stop your crying baby it’s a sign of the times,” the crowd became a sea of glittering smartphone flashlights and rainbow flags. It was a surreal and beautiful sight, which brought tears to more than a few eyes.
This was the fourth time I’ve seen Harry Styles perform, and he just keeps getting better with age. Not only has he produced a critically-acclaimed record, he has proven that he can captivate an audience on his own.
And rather than shunning his boyband past like some of his 1D bandmates, he grabbed hold of it like it was the horns of some beautifully-quaffed bull and rode it into the night.
See you in April 2018, Harry.
Photo: Maria Boyadgis