It’s been less than 24 hours since Harry Styles released his third album, ‘Harry’s House’, but somehow every single person huddled in front of the stage or standing in front of their seats at New York’s UBS Arena, is singing along as if the record has been out for ages. “Who knows the words?” Styles ask the crowd about halfway through his set. A sea of fans wearing glitter, feather boas and their record release day best responds with a deafening cheer. The pop star looks back at them with a smile before asking with a laugh: “But how?”
The former One Directioner has drawn 20,000 fans to Long Island for ‘One Night Only In New York’, all with the promise of performing his latest record “the way it was intended to be played, from start to finish”.
After treating the audience to a pre-show vocal warm up by blasting ‘Bohemian Rhapsody and ‘New York, New York’ through the speakers, a neon version of Harry’s house appears on the stage. To the delight of the roaring crowd, Styles appears too, dressed aptly for a rock and roll housewarming party in a yellow necklace, heart-ornamented top and leather pants.
The evening officially kicks off to a smooth start with ‘80s tinged album opener, ‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’. ‘Late Night Talking’ follows and as Styles sings, “If you’re feeling down, I just wanna make you happier, baby /Wish I was around, I just wanna make you happier, baby” while thousands of faces beam toward him, clearly believing every word. The first highlight of the set, however, comes by way of synth-soaked lead single ‘As It Was’. The whole arena dances through the track and rattles off the lyrics “Go home, get ahead, light-speed internet / I don’t wanna talk about the way that it was” in sync with Styles.
It’s not only the upbeat tracks that steal the show. ‘Boyfriends’, played acoustically with Styles harmonizing with the members of his band, quieted the room. And, ‘Matilda’, a song centring around a person whose rebuilding their life, as they’re told, “You can throw a party full of everyone you know / And not invite your family ’cause they never showed you love”, is an equally heartbreaking and beautiful moment in the set. “I wrote this for someone who needed to hear it,” Styles says before singing the tender track, “If there’s anyone in the audience that feels like it applies to you – it does.”
Though each tune moves across the eager listeners like an energy shifting tidal wave, some of the most stirring moments of Styles’ set come in the spaces between each song, as he shares love notes with his fans.
“Over the last two-and-half years we all went through something,” he says during one of the rare quiet instances in his set. “Collectively we all went through something. Everyone went through something on their own; they had their own experience of what happened over the past couple of years,” Harry shares, before pausing to add: “I have to say… this album saved me.”
“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t been making this,” the formidable performer continues. “I don’t think I would have been able to make this if it wasn’t for you creating an environment where I feel like I can, and know that I can. I know it’s me that stands up on this stage but I learn so much from you and I want to thank you so much.” Right before playing the album’s slow-burning closing track, Styles shouts: “This one is for every single one of you – this is ‘Love Of My Life.’”
The encore brings some of the most playful energy of the set, as he returns to the stage with the disco beating ‘Adore You’, then slides into sultry crowd pleaser ‘Watermelon Sugar’. ‘Sign Of The Times’ follows: towards the end of the world-weary ballad, Styles pulls a Ukranian flag from the audience, holding it symbolically above his head.
The momentum increases with a rendition of One Direction’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, as lifelong fans sing the words so loudly that there’s no need for Harry to hold the microphone. The encore ends with ‘Kiwi’, Styles almost glowing with electricity as he darts across the stage howling: “I’m having your baby / It’s none of your business.”
“I love every single one of you,” he says earnestly to a tearful and cheerful audience, as he ends the show by relaunching into ‘As It Was’. “It’s been the best night of my life.”
As we’ve found during the pandemic, homes can stir complicated feelings, inciting visions of four tight walls that shut you off from the rest of the world. But with ‘Harry House’, Styles has created an expansive space grounded in the self-discovery that the most idyllic place you can build is within yourself. On a rainy night in New York, fans came along with him to that home, co-creating an intimate and ideal universe with him, even if it was just for one night only.
Harry Styles played:
‘Music For A Sushi Restaurant’
‘Late Night Talking’
‘As It Was’
‘Love Of My Life’
‘Sign Of The Times’
‘What Makes You Beautiful’ (One Direction song)
‘As It Was’ (Reprise)