Seeing Harry Styles at London’s O2 Academy Brixton is the equivalent to seeing him play your local pub. Yes, it’s still a 5000-capacity venue, but that’s practically intimate compared to his recent Coachella headline gig or the colossal, 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium, where he’ll stage two massive shows for his Love On Tour jaunt next month.
Styles is here for One Night Only In London, the second of two special concerts celebrating the release of new album ‘Harry’s House’ (the first in New York got the five-star treatment here at NME). As he played the record from front to back, flanked by his immaculate, pink-boiler-suit clad band, it was a celebratory affair for the pop star’s first headline show in the UK since 2019. Leading the audience in a venue-wide rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ for one fan, restarting ‘Sign of the Times’ to ensure another could seek medical care and charming the audience with his onstage demeanour, he was on fine form.
If you weren’t able to bag a ticket, we’ve got you: here are the most wholesome moments from One Night Only In London.
He brought his mum
The show was a family affair, with Styles bringing along his mum Anne for the bash. This was revealed – to much joy from the fans – after he performed the louche, ’80s-inspired new track ‘Keep Driving’. Speaking to the crowd about its lyrics after he played the tune, Styles revealed: “I never thought I’d say “Cocaine, side boob / Choke her with a sea view” with my mother in the audience!”
The introduction to ‘Watermelon Sugar’ was sweet (kinda)
The smash-hit single from Styles’ second album, 2019’s ‘Fine Line’, got a welcome airing too. Ahead of the earworm, he delivered a moving speech to the audience, alluding to the COVID-19 pandemic and our collective lockdowns.
“I have to say: the new album is the proudest I’ve ever been of anything I’ve done; I love it so much, and I really hope you like it,” he began. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, over the last couple of years we all went through something collective, and I’m praying we all just go out and be nice to each other.
“The world needs it, and if you ever find yourself in a position where you find yourself confused or scared, or in a position where we all find ourselves from time to time…remember, we can always sing along to a song about oral sex.” N’aww.
The powerhouse performance of ‘Boyfriends’ turned Brixton into a cosy folk club
‘Harry’s House’ feels tailor-made to play live, but never more so than on ‘Boyfriends’. With two backing vocalists joining Styles at the front of the stage, the intimate number was a moving moment in the set, turning Brixton into a cosy folk venue.
Styles dedicated the track to a fan in the crowd whose her boyfriend had cheated on her. “What was your boyfriend’s name?” he dutifully asked, before quipping: “Luke? That’s a shit name.” He added, “Not going to lie – that’s brutal,” then asked the crowd what they wanted to say to Luke. The answer was, of course: “Fuck you, Luke!”
As well as celebrating the new record, he embraced the past
The first half of the show saw a front-to-back rendition of new record ‘Harry’s House’, but it was in the encore that he treated fans to a dive into his back catalogue with tunes from the self-titled debut and 2019’s ‘Fine Line’. “This song changed my life in so many ways,” he admitted before playing ‘Sign of the Times’, his debut solo single from 2017. Later, he dusted off a One Direction classic with a disco-infused, foot-stomping version of ‘What Makes You Beautiful’. Both are staples in Styles; live set, but they felt particularly poignant coming after the full run-through of ‘Harry’s House’. Yes, we were here to celebrate the new album, but we could also look back and enjoy his past decade in music too.
Camping out in the torrential rain for hours to get a space at the front and belting out every word of ‘Harry’s House’ despite the album only having been out for four days, it was the fans who made this One Night Only... show feel so special. Amazingly, it was just the same at the New York show, when the record hadn’t been out for 24 hours, leading Styles to ask with a laugh: “But how!?”
The answer, of course, is that Harry Styles fans are a breed apart. Beginning with a venue-wide singalong of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ 15 minutes before their hero even set foot on stage, their impassioned energy, egged on by the man himself, was thrilling. Bringing flags and signs to wave, it was them, as much as Styles, who brought stadium atmosphere to a packed O2 Academy Brixton.