The scene is set: the bathroom at Cosetta’s Italian restaurant in downtown St. Paul, an hour before the doors are set to open at the Xcel Energy Center for the Harry Styles concert on Sunday night. I’m chatting with an older woman who’s accompanying her 24-year-old daughter to the show, as well as a mom with two tween girls while we wait for stalls to open up. We’re all here to see Harry.
Is this surprising? A little. After all, the world discovered Harry Styles as part of teenybopper boy band and worldwide phenomenon One Direction. They grew into their talent and grew up literally before our eyes, and each of the guys has gone on to release legit solo singles. Styles’ music, heavily influenced by the sounds of the ’70s, has received the most critical praise and attention—he even gets played on the Current. Harry isn’t a pop star anymore—he’s a movie star and a rock star, and the crowd he draws includes not only teen girls but also men in their thirties and dads who have become fans via constant exposure.
Young women swarmed the merch booths at the X to snap up Harry-centric sweatshirts and tees reading “Treat People with Kindness.” Styles has released just one solo, but you wouldn’t know that from the intense waves of screams that vibrated across the arena. His fan base is strong, and it’s ageless and loyal. (The girls even screamed when “Hey Jude” played pre-show.)
Harry opened with “Only Angel,” his hip-thrusting, cocksure bravado inviting comparisons to his charismatic forefather Mick Jagger. Then he segued into “Woman.” Then he picked up his guitar. “My name is Harry,” he intoned in his accented baritone. “It’s wonderful to see you all. Thank you for coming. I have one job tonight, and that’s to entertain you. I promise I’ll do my very best. You have one job tonight, and that’s to have the time of your life. Feel free to be whoever it is you would like to be.”
While the Jagger comparison is unavoidable, Harry also resembles Paul McCartney in his sheer charm and buoyancy. Styles has been famous for an enormous chunk of his life and he handles it with humor and grace; it’s easy to see how Harry’s legions of young female fans will follow him not only in the next few years but as long as his career unfolds.
As any longtime 1D fan could tell you, Harry can keep a crowd entertained just fine on his own; he was great as part of a unit, but the magic is still there when he performs solo, rocking a shimmery pink blouse and flirting with the crowd. He wandered through a very enthusiastic mob of fans to a second stage, where he sang his second most popular (and most acoustic) song, “Sweet Creature,” to a bevy of sweet twinkling pink lights ... and screams, of course. He even bantered with the audience about having additional nipples (he has four total) and made everyone in the audience envious about it, wanting to share that moment with him too. Harry Styles is just so cool, OK?
The guy only has 10 solo songs, so a decent amount of the show was devoted to 1D covers (though is it really a cover if it’s your former band?) like “Stockholm Syndrome” and “If I Could Fly,” which practically blew up the arena with their singalongs, and songs he’d written for other artists, like the Ariana Grande track “A Little Piece of Your Heart.” The One Direction hit “What Makes You Beautiful” was translated from a pop jam to a ’70s groove as Harry waved the Pride flags. In the middle of a new song, “Anna,” he sang a bit of George Michael’s “Faith,” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was a pivotal part of his encore set, sandwiched between “From the Dining Table” and “Kiwi.”
Harry finished his show with his first big solo song, the sweeping “Sign of the Times,” which had even the moms and thirty-somethings on their feet, then came back for an encore set that ended with the hard rocking “Kiwi.” It would’ve been lovely to see him team up with his opener, Kacey Musgraves, for a duet as he’s done at other tour stops, but the show wasn’t lacking for it either. (Kacey, on the other hand, seemed a little overwhelmed by the arena venue and didn’t have the same zesty stage presence as Harry.)
Clearly, young Harry needn’t worry about his musical future. He’s got the chops, he’s got the skills, he’s got the charm and he’s got the moves to carry him as far as he wants to go, and I have a feeling more and more music fans, regardless of their age, will be joining him.
Click here to see a photo slideshow of Harry Styles at the X
Ever Since New York
Stockholm Syndrome (One Direction song)
Just a Little Bit of Your Heart (Ariana Grande cover)
Meet Me in the Hallway
If I Could Fly (One Direction song)
What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction song)
Sign of the Times
From the Dining Table
The Chain (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Critic's bias: Owns two 1D tees. Bought a Harry tote. Loves the last two 1D albums intensely.
The crowd: 85% female. 95% enthusiastic.
Overheard in the crowd: Lol, no one could talk over the screaming.
Random notebook dump: What if Harry Styles covered “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias?