Concert review: Harry Styles
Sign of the times
History has taught us that there are two ways to move on from your post-boy band career: Either break out as a solo star and hold your own (as what the likes of Robbie Williams and Justin Timberlake have done), or fade into oblivion (here's looking at you, JC Chasez and Nick Lachey). Like a television comedy spin-off, you can either succeed like Frasier after Cheers, or tank like Joey away from Friends. After One Direction member Harry Styles performed solo to a sold-out 5,000-strong crowd at The Star Theatre last evening, his career trajectory definitely hinted at greater things to come.
Although he's only 23 years old, it isn't premature to call Styles a bonafide rock star. While humble beginnings as an X-Factor contestant in 2010 launched a pop career in the five-piece band One Direction, he's coming into his own since the band went on an extended hiatus in January 2016. The Englishman went on to release his self-titled debut album in May this year, a pop-rock pleaser of 10 hits that hinted at influences from the '60s, '70s and even '90s in a throwback to feel-good guitar-led tunes, honest lyrics and a bit of devil-may-care fun. Thanks to concert promoters Live Nation Lushington, Styles brought all of that to his debut solo performance in Singapore, a country he last visited in 2015 as part of One Direction.
With Singapore as the only Southeast Asian stop on this leg of the tour, Styles and his four-piece band played to a crowd of both One Directioners and recent Styles converts who gravitated to those signature dimples. Starting the concert with 'Ever Since New York', he looked every bit like a rock star in a floral Gucci suit. This is a fashion-forward man who — like the Bowies and Mercurys of the past — has embraced pussy bows, bell-bottoms and even ambiguous sexuality much to the amusement of fans.
Charming the audience, Styles addressed the crowd simply ("My name is Harry, I'm from England"), sharing his appreciation from the start. The singer even picked up a souvenier or two: A rainbow flag and a plastic squeeze toy. With a switch of guitars in between numbers, Styles gave us a peek at his vintage Gibson ES-350, an electric guitar that's also famously used by Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
Although the Dunkirk star's discography is limited to 10 songs from his album, he amped up the set with favourites from One Direction ('Stockholm Syndrome' and 'What Makes You Beautiful') and covers (Ariana Grande's 'Just a Little Bit of Your Heart' and Fleetwood Mac's 'The Chain'). Well-paced, the arrangement of songs placed the fun 'Carolina' in between folky, emotional picks such as 'Two Ghosts' and 'Sweet Creature' — the latter sung with eyes closed as fans sang along with every word. But it was the rock-and-roll 'Kiwi' that saw him bust out his best dad moves, spitting out water and working the stage from all sides.
Saving the best for last, 'Sign of the Times' closed the show, but not without a technical boo-boo at the start. "That's my fault, let me try again," he laughed sheepishly. And try again he did, serenading fans with his most celebrated track in all its high moments and unabashedly showing off his strong vocals. If Styles' solo performance is a sign of the times, we're in for a good ride.
Harry Styles performed in Singapore on 23 November at The Star Theatre.
Harry Styles will return to Singapore in 2018 for his arena tour on 3 May, 8pm at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Book tickets.