Harry Styles review – joy, tears and conga lines at Harry’s house party

Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow
This first solo stadium show from the ex-One Direction star is a delight, thanks to his catalogue of great songs – and megawatt charisma

‘Glasgow make some noise!” Harry Styles says midway through his second song. Amid the nigh-on ultrasonic wail of 50,000-odd ecstatic young fans singing along deliriously with his every word, he really needn’t have asked.

Bounding across the stage in a yellow and blue jewel-encrusted disco jacket and flares – surely an unsubtle gesture of solidarity with Ukraine, although nothing is said – the ex-One Direction member headlines his first stadium as a solo performer. Considering his permanent grin and all the air-punching and blowing of kisses as he leans into the rubbery electro-funk of Music for a Sushi Restaurant and the 24-carat hooks of Golden, it’s safe to say the Redditch lad is enjoying the moment.

Tattooed rock god Styles may fancy himself these days, but he knows which side his bread is buttered on. This performance showcases the same boundlessly upbeat poptimism that propelled One Direction to the top, though Styles has evolved it: the kids who came 12 years ago for his puppy-dog good looks and floppy power ballads have stayed for gender-fluid fashion and fruity oral sex metaphors.

There is something refreshingly simple, even audacious about the show Styles presents in support of his third album, Harry’s House. No gimmicks, no slick choreography, no pyrotechnics. Just megawatt charisma, a tremendous six-piece backing band and a genre-spanning catalogue of great songs, which, after a patchy start on his first two albums, is finally seeing Styles’ hitmaker credentials catch up to his runaway celebrity.

An acoustic interlude threatens to bring down the mood. Matilda proves less akin to the Joni Mitchell song Styles may like to think it is than to Barry Manilow’s Mandy. But Fine Line, which on the album is a reedy sub-Bon Iver lament, sounds massive here as it gracefully unfurls and rises to a dramatic climax. The venue’s cameras, broadcasting to giant screens, linger poignantly on a bunch of girls overcome with emotion. To say Styles made everyone feel like this show was just for them would be a cliche, but certainly Chloe down the front will remember turning 23 fondly after the singer leads Ibrox in a personalised chorus of Happy Birthday to her. He even somehow styles out swallowing a fly in the process.

Pop-superstar tradition dictates that Styles, by this stage of his career, should be singing about how lonely it is at the top and the dark side of fame. Not declaring “15 minutes of straight dancing” before leading a breathless megamix of Treat People With Kindness, One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful and Late Night Talking. At one point, conga lines break out around the stadium.

Even Styles’ Guns N’ Roses-style serious rock power ballad, Sign of the Times, sounds bright and celebratory. Fructose banger Watermelon Sugar feels destined to forever sound like endless summer. Rushing synth-pop pearl As It Was – currently in its 10th week at No 1 – is the best song on Harry’s House, and perhaps his best song yet. Styles offers profuse thanks and self-deprecating words about how “things like this don’t happen to people like me very often,” before Kiwi lets everyone wail their last at Harry’s house party, a meeting of stardom and fandom on a higher plane. An uncomplicated, unbridled joy in a world that could scarcely need it more right now.

  • At Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, 15 and 16 June, then touring


Malcolm Jack

The GuardianTramp

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