Well, who’d have thought it? A manufactured talent from a pop competition turned 1/5 of the world’s biggest boy band, now creating a spectacle of rock’n’rollsy folk with a hip-sway to rival Mick Jagger?
*Cue snort of derision*, but believe it or not, Harry Styles is a credible, charismatic artist in his own right, and brought not only incredible vocals but a spectacularly vintage showmanship to Manchester on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles-based rockers Muna took to the stage pre-Styles. Think a pop-rock mash-up of Haim, The 1975 and Fleetwood Mac.
The energy was high, and dancing was groovy, pre-empting Harry’s set with a soulfulness plucked from the 70s, folk entwined into the mix with a cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Edge of Seventeen’.
It wasn’t all jiving and suave struts for Styles; though his entrance was anything but downplayed, the beginning of his set was mellow and understated.
It was unclear whether it was an introduction of cool detachment or an artistic stunt to elevate the shock factor of his Rolling Stones mid-section.
Either way, ‘Ever Since New York’ and ‘Two Ghosts’ provided a subtle intro to an artist who has stripped back the razzle-dazzle of the fame to reveal a real guy, intent on relaying honesty and soul through his debut.
There were no frills on it, just Haz, a guitar and a tight four-piece, lyrically moseying their way through the country which saturated Styles’ performative direction.
The easy Deep South ‘Carolina’ and intimate ‘Sweet Creature’ followed, after which came a switch up of Harry Styles’ rock-extravaganza. Smooth moves, quick banter and jazzy transitions escalated his performance tenfold.
‘Only Angel’ and ‘Woman’ were a whirlwind of 60s rock’n’roll, sexed-up, lad-about-town fun, oozing some serious electric edge.
Covers were the least dynamic parts of the set, though a version of Ariana Grande’s ‘Just a Little Bit of Your Heart’, which Styles wrote himself, touched hearts in Manchester.
Fans held up their bees in solidarity, poignant as both Muna and Styles thanked the crowd for the bravery they showed coming to a gig.
A couple of 1D songs weren’t completely necessary, as his solo material needs no support from his musical history.
But modernising and Styles-ing ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ and ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ to fit his own country agenda was a smart move, and it paid off.
The encore brought with it a flawless cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’, as recently performed in the Radio 1 Live Lounge. Darkly folksy, it was clear to see Styles’ adoration for rock predecessors; this intrinsic ear for rock is deep-rooted in our Haz.
‘Sign Of The Times’ was always going to be the showstopper. Seemingly removed from the rest of the set, the track saw Styles and the band crescendo in a beautifully simplistic chorus of musical wonder – the perfect moment.
It was sultry, it was effortlessly cool and it was his own; looks like going solo was the best decision Harry ever made. That, and flares.
Wednesday 1st November 2017, O2 Apollo Manchester