“I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends to have in this room tonight, thank you so much for being here, all of you.” At his first ever solo show last night, Harry Styles spoke to the audience as if they were the organisers of his surprise birthday party rather than a crowd of strangers. But the intimacy felt appropriate: the former One Direction member is more familiar with Wembley Stadium and Madison Square Gardens than a tiny, sweaty room on the corner of Highbury and Islington roundabout.
On his Twitter feed, Styles announced at 8am on Saturday morning that a surprise gig would be taking place that evening at The Garage in London, ahead of his larger tour later this year to promote his debut solo album (the self-titled Harry Styles). Tickets were only available, for £10, if bought from the box office in person, and even then you could only buy one. All proceeds were to go to The Little Princess Trust, the charity that the singer donated his hair to last year, which provides wigs to children experiencing hair loss. Dedicated fans jumped out of bed seconds later to buy tickets, some still in their pyjamas.
The atmosphere inside was giddy as a result, ticket-holders delirious with luck. Styles, dressed in a frankly outrageous pink satin Gucci suit with embroidered dragons snaking up his thighs, seemed genuinely excited to be there too, telling the crowd he was “overwhelmed” by their support. “This is my first show in a long time. My first show ever. So it’s a night I won’t forget,” he said, adding “You might not be able to tell from my monotone voice, but I am having a great time.”
His years of experience in one of the music industry’s most polished pop bands are clear to see: for what was essentially a warm-up show, this was a sleek performance. Delivering his new album in its entirety, Styles was most impressive when letting loose on rockier, more upbeat tracks Only Angel and Kiwi (the latter saw women at the front form a mosh pit), or exuding Seventies sex appeal on Woman and Carolina.
Unlike at the rehearsal he held last week, he did not stage dive. “Let me tell you,” he explained of the much-reported calamitous attempt (which saw him knock a fan to the floor). “It doesn’t feel one third as cool as you think it does.”
As well as his solo material, Styles performed two other songs: an experimental riff on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” and a much-loved One Direction track he has a writing credit on, “Stockholm Syndrome”. “You may or may not know the words,” Styles deadpanned, as the crowd screamed at the opening notes.
One of the loudest cheers of the entire event went not to the main man, but his drummer Sarah Jones, who has delighted Styles’s mostly female fanbase with her performances over the past few weeks. “Alright, that’s enough,” the star joked after introducing her. “That’s why she’s at the back.”
It’s a joy to watch Styles interact with a smaller crowd. He has a knowing, teasing relationship with fans, at one point asking the audience, “How you doing down there? You look very warm. There’s a smell…” But, this ribbing aside, his desire that everyone present have the best possible time was obvious, as he paused the show to check on a fan struggling with the heat, and sung Happy Birthday to another the front. It’s this combination of charm, ease, flamboyance, and an actually very good singing voice that sets Styles apart from his former bandmates and many of his peers. Could this be the rock star British pop music needs? - The Telegraph