Live On Tour
Harry Styles has pulled off the most successful artist rebrand of this century.
After finding success in the global phenomenon that is boy-band One Direction, he was pigeonholed as a teen pop sensation, performing glossy tunes written to make a quick buck. But when the band went on an interminable hiatus in late 2015, it was an opportunity for Styles to experiment and shape a music career that would mature with his young audience.
The release of his self-titled debut solo album in 2017 captured a sorely-missed authenticity with thought-out lyrics and roaring guitar riffs (his single Sign of the Times is a six minute ballad reminiscent of David Bowie's Hunky Dory album). His image of a polished manufactured talent transformed into an inspired rock artist, becoming almost a current James Dean/River Phoenix golden-boy. It marked the beginning of big things for Styles' career.
His performance last night did not let his new image down.
Opening act, The Preatures, did Australian alt-rock proud. Lead singer Izzi Manfredi grooved all over the stage, threw water on her hair and got hot and steamy with guitarist (and probable boyfriend) Jack Moffitt. Watching it did, however, make the set feel like it was just a disguise for a competition of who could turn the other band member on more, particularly when Manfredi was on the ground making intense eye contact while Moffitt performed a solo. They were loud, it was bold and it felt like rock and roll.
Harry Styles' band soon braced the stage - a four piece including a female drummer and keyboardist, all dressed immaculately in funky sleek clothes. Then when a wall of lights beamed out in to the sea of screaming girls and the opening gospel began for Only Angel, the silhouette of perhaps the most attractive artist I have seen in concert, appeared centre stage. An angel indeed.
His set included some revamped 1D songs such as Stockholm Syndrome and their launching single What Makes You Beautiful, as well as a tune Styles wrote for Ariana Grande, Just A Little Bit of Your Heart, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain. Styles chatted to the audience in between his tunes, asking members of the mosh pit where they're from, telling seated people that those standing on chairs he's not responsible for (which caused more to stand on chairs) and joking about doing a 'shoey'. After 8 years on the road, he's learned how to charm an audience.
One particular stint I've never seen before was his B-stage that had no elevation and gave the VIPs surrounding it a sense that he was singing amongst them. Though frustrating for those in the mosh pit, I could now understand why people would pay extra to sit at the back by the stage.
His final song of the three-song-encore electrified the arena with Styles really giving it his all for Kiwi. In comparison to the dejected and half-hearted performance the One Direction boys gave at their stadium tour in 2015, it is obvious Styles has now hit his stride at full pace and is having the time of his life.
I must say, for someone so good looking, it's a sigh of relief that he actually has talent.