Harry Styles’ “One Night Only” “Harry’s House” Show: Concert Review
“It’s a very special night for me, for us,” Harry Styles told a crowd of nearly 20,000 at UBS Arena on Friday and millions during an Apple Music livestream. “We’re only in New York for one night, and we’ll play this new album for you the way it was meant to be heard: start to finish.”
And with the giant neon outline of a house behind him, that’s exactly what Styles and his well-rehearsed band did: create his just-released third solo album, “Harry’s House,” during a “One Night Only”, an arena-sized arena. album launch party for Styles’ most dedicated fans (although the title was a bit of a misnomer: there’s a similar gig taking place in London next week).
At any Styles gig, devotees swap stories like battle scars. “What One Direction tour did you see? “Did you get a ticket to Harryween?” “Are you still friends with the girls you met at Love on Tour?” But despite the gig’s name, rarity isn’t a quality anyone would attribute to Harry Styles these days: His pandemic-delayed “Love on Tour” was unleashed across North America during the major part last fall, he headlined Coachella last month, he just dropped a new album, and along the way he’s been the darling of Anna Wintour, Alessandro Michele’s muse of Gucci and a boyish face for Christopher Nolan. And with barely a break, he’s off again, embarking on a European tour next month that returns to the United States for three months in the fall. Harry fans’ cups are overflowing.
Yet Friday night was the first time he had performed most of the new album in front of a live audience, so the meaning of an event was palpable, and for many felt like a secret privilege.
But “Harry’s House” is a departure, and performing a brand new album, even in front of a cheering crowd, is undoubtedly an agonizing challenge. On top of that, it’s a more intimate album than its flamboyant predecessor, “Fine Line,” and many of its catchy, breezy songs aren’t suitable for an outsized stadium tour. Styles, dressed in a Gucci t-shirt and leather pants, looked slightly nervous as he and his well-trained band ran through the album’s opening songs – in order – strolling from the single’s synthesizer album’s current hit, “As It Was,” to tender offerings like “Matilda” and the light-hearted funk of tracks like “Daydreaming” and “Cinema.” Fans roared in approval and many sang along. places, but they had heard most of the songs for the first time less than 24 hours earlier.
Styles rarely spoke to the crowd during the early songs, but loosened up as the night wore on. “How are we doing so far?” he asked during one of the many digressions where he spoke about the album’s importance to him, how it’s the product of “everything that we’ve all been through, collectively and as individuals, over the past two years,” and how happy and relieved he must finally have it in the world. “I want to say, I I like it,” he said of the album. “But I’m very, very happy that you like it so far.”
As he did at Coachella, Styles was accompanied by three of his female members for “Boyfriends,” the album’s penultimate track, for close harmonies on acoustic guitars. The style of the song is new to him – a slow, contemplative and serious ballad – but its lyrics are clearly aimed at the hearts of his fans: the song is “for anyone who has ever had or hasn’t had or have had no relationship to a boyfriend.
As the album drew to a close, Styles announced to the crowd that he would be returning soon to play a few more songs, then closed the main set with the album’s final track, “Love of My Life”. He thanked Rob Stringer, the head of his label, Sony Music. “You might think I’d hate the head of my record company, but I’m not,” he said, and spoke of Stringer’s generosity in letting Styles borrow his house to work on the album. album, and noted that the song was written there. (That sound you hear is Rob Stringer’s phone ringing, as the performers call to ask if they too can borrow his house.)
When the song ended, Styles briefly left the stage, then returned to playing older songs. While the previous 45 minutes had seen a (relatively) understated style focusing on new material, the encore felt as if it had been let out of its cage. He and the band roared through many of his biggest hits – ‘Adore You’, ‘Watermelon Sugar’, ‘Sign of the Times’, his One Direction showcase ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, ‘Kiwi’ and even a cover crowd. from “As It Was” – in a seemingly improvised set: At one point, the band sounded confused and vamp over an almost heavy metal riff as Styles ventured down the catwalks that led from the stage to the center of the arena for about the twentieth time that night. Several times he appeared to leave the stage but returned to play another song, and the crowd roared at the finale as he waved first a Ukrainian flag and then his usual rainbow in a statement of solidarity with both.
Both halves of the concert—”Harry’s House” and the stadium-sized encores of hits—presented the differences between his new and old material in relief. It remains to be seen how he reconciles the two on his next months-long tour – but in the meantime, the ecstatic crowd in New York (as well as the millions who had watched the livestream) left knowing they had witnessed a historic night in Harrylore.
Additional reporting by Jem Aswad.