I saw Harry Styles at the Ryman and it was hands down the best experience I have had with any show.
edit: my pants got a lot of nice compliments and some interesting stares which I assume were kind.
Muna played a small set including Loudspeaker, Winter Break, and I Know A Place. Their last song was prefaced by a statement about the beauty of diversity. They also told us that they believe we can change the world.
Cam also played a small set. She is Nashville-based and some of Harrys writers worked on her album. She has a brilliant voice and is totally adorable. We got out our flashlights for her last song. My row got a nice little arm-on-shoulder-chain sway going.
Then our beautiful, dramatic Harold took the stage. I have never seen someone command a stage and audience (and it was a very good audience!!) as well as him. His voice is beautiful live. His performance is phenomenal live. I can’t say more than that. You have to experience it. I am sure you can find the setlist somewhere. It had one deviation from past shows, I believe.
He didn’t play Stockholm Syndrome but he played Girl Crush. He dropped the “girl” at least one noticable time and by my memory, the rumors he switched “you” to “him” are true. I don’t know the song well, but he clearly killed it.
His banter was adorable. He introduced himself. “Hi! I’m Harry!” He talked about how historic the Ryman is. He told us that one of his cowriters was in the audience (Tommy?) and that he had come to Jamaica to write with Harry just after he had gotten married. He introduced the band “Claire, Sarah, Adam, and…… this is Mitch, isn’t he cute?” He told us we had to make some noise so he would come back to Nashville. He asked “This is a church, right?” “I am very aware I just sang ‘I’m having your baby!’ at a church… (cringe) sorry!” He spotted a girl in the balcony and sweetly mocked her dancing. He told us “I love you.”
At one point, I put up heart hands for Harry. He noticed and returned the gesture with a peace sign.
I want to interrupt here to tell you a little story.
You may know that I am gay and closeted. I wanted to bring in a Gay Pride flag like many other rainbow directoners have before me, so I had one in my bag.
Security pulled it out, insisted “what is this?” and then told me “no flags allowed.” I understand that flags are not a normal thing in small venues. They can obstruct peoples’ views and that is not really okay. The guard allowed me to take the flag back to my car.
I tweeted Harry and messaged his stylist on instagram that flags were taken from fans at the door because I didn’t want Harry to believe that no one had wanted to bring in a flag for him.
In a perfect world, I took the folded flag and thanks to my very sturdy, tight velvet vest was able to conceal the flag and take it through security. In a perfect world, I wore the flag around my shoulders for much of Harry’s set and cautiously waved it about during the more uptempo songs. In a perfect world, I felt the kind of strength you can only feel as a gay person who has taken a personal risk to show the world who you are for the sake of others like you.
I will let you decide if the world is perfect, but I certainly saw at least four pride flags in the audience. Rumor had it that if security deemed the flag to be clothing and it wasn’t hung over the balcony or waved it was acceptable to the venue.
Then came the encore. I wasn’t expecting such drama!
When they came back, there was a pride flag on the drum riser. [edit: the lovely @1d-somethinggreat has told me that they saw that Harry himself carried the flag out across his shoulders.]
He started off with FTDT. It’s my personal favorite song off the album.
Next he played The Chain. He looked at my section a lot. In a perfect world he was looking partly at me because of my visible pride flag.
Then came SOTT.
But first! He told us “I only have you for another 8 minutes.” “I want you to find a stranger!” Once we had done that, he told us “Now I want you to embrace that stranger! Embrace, I think thats a much better word to use about women.” *cheer break* “Well go on then, EMBRACE!” We hugged a bunch. In a perfect world,my stranger and I made a heart hand and draped my flag from it. Claire saw us and gave a thousand-watt smile. I smiled back.
Then Harry said a few words which escape me at the moment, but they lead up to some very important, iconic ones.
He said “I was told that this was taken. I want to restore it to its rightful place.” He took the pride flag from the riser and put it on his mic stand.
He sang Sign of the Times. During this song, I put up a half heart hand briefly. (my other hand was occupied) Harry looked at me and then pantomimed tucking it away neatly in his jacket pocket.
I really can’t imagine a better concert. He is brilliant live. The venue was completely perfect. The audience was amazing. And he took that night to make a statement and make all of his rainbow children feel safe and loved.
I wish there were better words to tell you what Harry Styles is like. He is an amazingly talented and loving individual. I hope everyone gets to have an equally personal and meaningful experience of him. It would make the world a better place. 🏳️🌈
[Update: I came out to my mom and dad using the flag story. It went as well as I could hope. My parents are understanding and loving people at heart.]