Harry Styles is one of those musicians who was born to be on a stage in front of thousands of people. Last Monday (June 18), he brought his world tour to Boston, along with opening act Kacey Musgraves. The country-pop star (of “Merry Go Round” and “Space Cowboy” notoriety) might have seemed an odd choice to some, but considering Styles has listed Shania Twain as a major influence growing up, it came as no surprise. The rhinestone-studded saddle hanging above Musgraves’s head during her opening act served as an inkling of what was to come when Styles finally arrived.
And arrive he did. Full of heart and a flair for the dramatic, he took the stage in a black Harris Reed ruffled shirt and flared pants, and opened with the rollicking “Only Angel.” If anyone in the crowd wasn’t already on their feet, they were by the time he finished his first song.
Since the one album he has out only has ten songs (a fact he mentioned at the beginning of the show), he rounded out the setlist with a collection of covers, including Ariana Grande’s “Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart,” on which he was a cowriter, as well as two One Direction songs: the tender ballad “If I Could Fly” and the ’70s-tinged “Stockholm Syndrome.” In addition, he performed two unreleased originals: “Anna,” a sparkling piece of arena rock, and “Medicine,” a raunchy, brash declaration of sexuality.
And through it all, he strutted around the 360° stage, prancing and blowing kisses and waving as though on a parade float. No one was left out, not even the parts of the crowd seated to the sides and back of the stage.
Anyone who’s followed Styles through his One Direction days knows he’s got a penchant for classic rock. Anyone who didn’t definitely knows now. He’s made it clear in his solo work where his roots and his heart lie, and that’s in the likes of Fleetwood Mac and The Rolling Stones. But he picks and chooses the parts of the rock ‘n’ roll tradition that he wants to tout. He wants the glitter and the flamboyancy, he wants the intensity of the music, but he discards everything else. He doesn’t want your bras. Sometimes I don’t even think he’s after adoration. Does he revel in it? Of course he does. He feeds off the crowd—the louder the audience, the wilder his moves. But it feels like all of that is just the cherry on top. He feels magnetic because he’s unabashedly himself. When he’s bounding around the stage, none of it feels like a front. This is someone who truly loves what he does, and can’t help but get lost in it. We’re all just lucky to be in the room while he does, and he lets us in.
Styles is yin and yang in the same person—he’s darkness and he’s light, he’s rocker grit and flouncy softness. One moment he’s punching the air, and the next he’s curtsying and prancing around à la “Dancing In The Streets.” It should be confusing, but it’s not. He’s an incredibly versatile performer, flitting from Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” and the old One Direction classic “What Makes You Beautiful” in the same set, with neither feeling out of place.
But perhaps what was most remarkable about Styles’s show wasn’t even anything he did onstage. It was what the fans coming to the show were inspired to do. Fans gave him bouquets of flowers; he collected them and handed them off to his mother, who was in attendance. When Styles introduced his lead-off single, “Sign of the Times”—saying, “Boston is forever strong”—hundreds of paper signs bearing the mantra “Boston Strong” went up on the floor, while colorful lights filled the loge and balcony sections. The result was a rainbow wrapping around the arena—faint, but present, and a testament to the sense of community he encourages in his fans. The slogan he’s been selling on his merchandise, “Treat People With Kindness,” feels less like an order to fans and more like a personal motto he wants to share. And it was obvious in the arena that night.
Styles will continue to tour North America through mid-July; tour dates can be found here.