Harry Styles hasn’t quite mastered the stage dive yet, but his solo music sparkles live
Finally, we have the definitive answer to the age-old question, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” Because despite what feels true in your heart, Harry Styles cannot fly.
A few short hours after premiering his first solo video for the soaring “Sign of the Times,” Styles played an intimate gig for some lucky fans at Rough Trade in Brooklyn, New York, hosted by iHeartRadio. At the end of the show, he made up his mind to do something he had always wanted try and took a stage dive. It didn’t work, though, and Styles didn’t get far before he took a couple audience members tumbling to the ground with him.
In the dimly lit chaos, I felt a brush of expensive silk draping microphone wires, and realized that the Most Likely to Succeed from the modern boy band era was pressed up against me while apologizing profusely to fans who he had inadvertently crushed. They left with smiles, though, and professional photographs with Styles to make up for the turmoil.
Before all that, Styles opened the set with “Ever Since New York,” the song he premiered on Saturday Night Live. He wrote it about a hotel a block away (but not that way, he clarifies after the crowd let him know where their dirty minds headed with pointed screams.) Styles likely meant the Wythe, a boutique hotel on the Williamsburg waterfront, for any Directioners planning their pilgrimages. The song hasn’t officially been released yet, but the SNL performance is plenty to go on, and upon seeing the crowd scream the lyrics back to him for the first time, Styles hoisted his microphone stand into the crowd. The ex-boy bander is clearly reveling in the novelty of steering his own ship, with each split-second decision, his eyes light up.
Styles, the solo artist, exudes sheepishness and bravado in equal measure. He told iHeartRadio’s Maxwell, who was moderating a Q&A between songs, that he wouldn’t be trying anything flashy on tour like singing suspended by wires because he didn’t want to assume anyone wanted to see him sing at all — which happens to be a bit ironic since these comments came a few days after his first tour sold out in less than two minutes.
His swagger was fully back in swing when he performed “Carolina,” a rollicking country-rock jam about a girl who flashed through his life but left a mark.
Styles is a natural in front of a group of girls fashionably attired in floral bomber jackets cycling through extreme emotions in a safe space. It’s why he was the de facto breakout heartthrob of One Direction as the lads tried to navigate the impossible task of growing up as the first boy band living under the fandom microscope in the era of social media.
So he did the crowd work. “Oh, these old things?” he said, kicking up the heel of his signature Gucci loafers to show off the ruffled hems of his Gucci pants.
Harry, you handsome devil, why did you schedule your album release for finals week?
Styles playfully scolded the crowd members who were skipping exams to see the show, which, from my unscientific polling, seemed to be about 75%. Harry, you handsome devil, why did you schedule your album release for finals week? One girl found out she was a contest winner a couple hours before the gig and promptly hustled to the venue while her sister waited in the car like a getaway driver to get her to her final immediately after. She told her professor she might be late due to a “family emergency.” Others faked illnesses. One particularly bold fan informed him that she let her school know she had to postpone the exam to attend a Harry Styles concert. On stage, the man of the hour shifted effortlessly from co-conspirator to disciplinarian.
Still, things change quickly, and Harry’s just getting used to the new lingo being screamed at him. He brought a girl celebrating her eighth birthday at the show on stage (go ahead, swoon) and looked puzzled when a fan yelled, “Queen of being 8!”
“Yes, queen of being 8,” Styles confirmed before leading the crowd in a “Happy Birthday” sing along.
But fans really flipped out when he treated them to the first live performance “Two Ghosts,” which he revealed is the only song from the record that he wrote before 2016 — about three or three-and-a-half years ago. The track, with references to a white T-shirt covering up an expanding tattoo collection, could be a response to Taylor Swift’s “Style.” He’ll probably never name names, but the time stamp is enough for fans to work with. The way he tells it, a relationship crumbled and the burden is on both of their shoulders. They’re just two souls who grew apart.
By the time Styles played “Sign of the Times,” he earned the drama required to pull off his apocalypse-resistant battle cry. And, like (almost) everything he does, he made it look easy.
You can listen to Harry Styles’ full set Friday at 7 p.m. local time on iHeartRadio affiliated stations.