Harry Styles Rocks His First Solo Tour

Harry Styles
Harry Styles plays at the Wang Theater in Boston.
It’s been about two years since Harry Styles last performed in Boston. At the time, he represented one fourth of British boy band One Direction, who packed Gillette Stadium full of frenzied fans. Since then, they’ve had a lot of growing up to do. All four of them began careers as solo artists. There have been collaborations with Bebe Rexha and Zedd and Sia. Two of them became fathers.

Gone are the days of skinny jeans and T-shirts. Harry’s style has gone through somewhat of a revamp—a dramatic haircut, a solo album, his first appearance in a movie (Christopher Nolan’s World War II summer blockbuster, “Dunkirk”). These days, he wears 70’s-inspired floral Gucci suits and plays guitar. But the fans are no less enthusiastic. Last Saturday, Styles played the sixth concert of his first solo tour at the Wang Theater, five months after the release of his self-titled debut album. It was undoubtedly a smaller venue—3,500 seats to Gillette Stadium’s 66,000—but his onstage charisma, and the fans’ energy, were enough to fill the space.

Muna, an electronic pop trio led by singer Katie Gavin, opened the show. “Everything’s about you to me,” Gavin sang in “Everything,” one of the tracks from “About U,” their debut album. Their set also featured a rousing cover of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” as well as songs from their album. When it was time for Styles to come onstage, a pink curtain patterned with the flower motif dropped. A spotlight illuminated his lanky silhouette from behind. The crowd screamed—even a suggestion of him, it seemed, was enough to elicit shrieks. Backed by four bandmates (sounds familiar?), Styles began the show with “Ever Since New York,” the album’s eighth track, a guitar-heavy indie song.

In total, he played a tidy set of 14 songs (his album contains 10). He played a bluesy version of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” which he helped co-write for Ariana Grande’s 2014 album “My Everything,” as well as a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” which he had performed earlier this year for a BBC Live Lounge. He seemed tired at first, standing with his guitar for “Sweet Creature” and “Two Ghosts,” a stark contrast to his days of sprinting down stadium walkways. But when it was time for “Only Angel” and “Kiwi,” anthemic hard rock tracks, Styles displayed trademark cheek, sticking out his tongue and touching front row hands, even spraying a water bottle over the crowd.

While tabloids and media outlets have dramatized the boy-band’s indefinite hiatus, Styles’ incorporation of several One Direction songs into his set list worked to offset any notions of ill will among bandmates. “If you have happened to see me out with my lovely friends before, please sing along,” he said by way of preface to “Story of My Life,” a single from the band’s 2014 album “Midnight Memories.” He also performed a rock version of “What Makes You Beautiful,” the band’s first single.

Styles tends to play with standards of masculinity, and his concert was no exception. Lines for merchandise—pink sweatshirts with “Harry” stitched into the chest, white T-shirts with Styles’ signature pastel flower motif—snaked around the lobby and up the stairs. During “Woman,” bright pink lighting illuminated his silhouette from the back. Bucking some of rock’s hyper-masculine stereotypes, Styles is a well-known supporter of feminism and BGLTQ rights; at one point in the night, he ran around the stage with a rainbow pride flag. The spirit was one of general inclusivity. “Your job,” he said, addressing the audience, “is to do whatever makes you happiest in the world. Do whatever you want. Be whoever you want to be.”

Unsurprisingly, the audience tended toward a teenage girl demographic—in total, there were maybe 20 men in the audience (one of whom was my father, whom Styles called out for wearing “a very nice jumper”). The estrogen dominance was likely the result of rapid online ticket sales by fervent teenage fans, a serious barrier to entry for newcomers to the Styles camp. One glance around the theater revealed T-shirts, handwritten signs, screaming fans who had congregated in droves, all vying for a glimpse of their golden boy. To borrow some lyrics from his opening band, everything is about him to them.

—Staff writer Caroline A. Tsai can be reached at caroline.tsai@thecrimson.com.

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