It looks like a chicken has been plucked in the Ziggo Dome. The ground is dotted with feathers in bright pink, orange and white. Harry Styles’ teenage fans dress as flamboyantly as the enigmatic pop star. And that means: platform shoes, heart glasses, seventies trousers with psychedelic prints and feather boas in all colours.
Since his departure from boy band One Direction, the British singer managed to work his way up to Big Pop Star. This year, he beat Adèle as the best-selling artist with his acclaimed third solo album Harry’s House and wrapped music festival Coachella as the headliner.
When he shows up at ‘Music for a Sushi Restaurant’, the first song of his by seventies rock inspired last album, he has yet to find his voice. Scattering, he almost runs out of breath, but he is immediately at ease on stage, full of winks and smiles. He’s wearing a baby blue and pink disco suit that wouldn’t look out of place with Freddy Mercury. The colossal charismatic pop star, who almost always makes critics use the words ‘gender fluid’ and ‘style’, has been compared to Prince and David Bowie. But his music, rooted in the classic rock sound of One Direction, doesn’t live up to this comparison.
Halfway through the show, he calls the father of a girl who has not yet dared to tell him that she likes girls. Her father’s reaction – ‘I love you and can’t wait to see you’
His set has a great build-up with the exuberant ‘Adore You’ as the culmination of a dazzling start. In this he cleverly chooses the safe second voice; the fans fill in the high-pitched ‘aaaaah-haaa-ha-ha’s’ of the wonderfully exuberant chorus. Subdued singer-songwriter songs follow about a girl who has never received (unconditional) love from her own family (‘Matilda’) and boyfriends who don’t know your worth (‘Boyfriends’). He sings them beautifully in polyphony, only accompanied by an acoustic guitar. They are comforting songs that are balm for a troubled teenage mind.
Styles has a decidedly positive message about connection, self-acceptance and love that he brings out especially in the numerous charming interactions with the audience. Halfway through the show, he calls the father of a girl who has not yet dared to tell him that she likes girls. Her father’s response—”I love you and can’t wait to see you”—is as heartwarming as her crying friends.
On “Lights Up,” Styles flies the rainbow flag and, to loud cheers, fires the crowd with his ringed hand to join the heartwarming gospel choir. Styles is openly sympathetic to his non-binary, non-heterosexual fellow. Sometimes that feels a bit socially desirable; at the same time it is of course an important message.
After the upbeat psychedelic pop-rock song ‘Treat People With Kindness’ and One Direction’s big hit ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, he continues at full speed with catchy pop songs from his latest album, ‘Late Night Talking’, and ‘Love of My Life’. ‘. He keeps the songs short and whirling. His old, Grammy award-winning hit ‘Watermelon Sugar’ he unfortunately riffs off a bit and then the unreleased track ‘Medicine’ follows by popular demand.
There are puzzling metaphors in his lyrics, but anyone who sees the born stage animal will forget that dancing with Elvis’ hips and John Travolta’s jive fingers, as he sings the sparkling pop song ‘As It Was’. Styles has charisma that makes the light of every stage spot fade – and this makes him a huge star.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of 11 July 2022