22 Oct 2018
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Harry Styles @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 2/12/2017

04 Dec 2017 // A review by Paul Goddard
It must be interesting being Harry Styles. Thrown into the limelight to be the focal point for one of the highest selling pop acts ever. Touring the world playing nothing smaller than a stadium and trying to remain grounded. He seems to have done it well and tonight is part of the next step in transitioning to a more mature audience as reflected by the songs on his debut solo album.

I wanted to approach this gig as if it was by an artist I had never heard of. It was quite easy as I have never heard a song by 1D and have only caught snippets of his solo album. I walked up to Spark Arena around 8.15 pm expecting crazy queues and hoping to catch a quick beer at the Tuning Fork before the show. The area outside the arena was completely deserted. You would not have thought there was a gig taking place and I pretty much had the Tuning Fork all to myself!

Maybe it was because most of the people at the show are teenage girls? Maybe it's because Harry wants to hit the town early after the show but for whatever reason, he is going to be onstage at 8.45PM meaning I had missed the support act and was in for an early night. 8.30 pm and the arena inside was packed!

The stage set up was simple. Just a video screen either side and a wall of lights as a backdrop. The lights go down and then it happens. The noise of twelve thousand screaming teenage girls is quite something. Kind of like a high pitched jet engine. Harry is used to it!

Guitar in hand, he walks to the mic stand and smiles. The place goes batshit. The opening numbers are mid-paced like he is trying to get a feel for the crowd and I wondered how much more of a connection he could make if the show was in a smaller venue. Those years of playing venues like this though have paid off and once the tempo ups and Harry the showman appears. He connects with the crowd by pointing out individuals and talking to them or about them. One girl called Lauren is selected as it is her birthday (really?) and the crowd sing happy birthday to her. He also grabs a rainbow flag from someone in the crowd and wraps it around his mic stand.

Cliched, cheesy? It could be and I must admit he does tell the crowd he loves them a lot more than is probably necessary but then he gets back to the music it works. He makes it seem effortless, he isn't trying too hard, or even trying to be credible. It appears Harry has done what most ex-boy band members don't and after years of being given one direction, he has successfully chosen own.

He is clearly loving his new rock star persona and he does it well. The seventies tinged ballads are interspersed with two rockier versions of a couple of 1D songs but Kiwi is the moment that both singer and audience have been waiting for. He teased it earlier in the set and after just a couple of lines the crowd have taken over. He stops the song and berates the crowd for "not singing loud enough" and then launches into a full-on high energy version of the song which shows he may just have the ability to make the transition from pop star to rock star.

It's all wrapped up with Sign Of The Times and I head out trying to avoid being swamped by thousands of hyperventilating teenagers.


Review written by Paul Goddard
 

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