There was a definite buzz in the air on the tram heading towards Docklands and Marvel Stadium in Melbourne this evening. Every time the tram made a stop, a new collection of young girls in feather boas, hot pink jumpsuits, pink cowboy hats and many sequins jumped on board. We were all heading to Harry’s House after all so the dress code and mood was celebratory.
There were long lines to get inside the stadium upon arrival then once inside, lines for merch, lines for food, and lines for the ladies’ room (no line at all for the men’s’ of course), amid the oppressive heat of a late summer evening mid heat wave. Despite these conditions, the atmosphere became increasingly electric and the people congregated had a patience and serenity with no audible complaints to be had. Like confetti on the church steps at a wedding, there was a trail of coloured feathers as far as the eye could see in and around the venue and people were brimming with excitement and anticipation as the front door to Harry’s house finally opened.
Opening up the musical extravaganza of Harry Styles’ Love On Tour was fellow Brits Wet Leg, with their unique brand of smart rock. Hailing from the Isle of Wight and led by core members Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers, Wet Leg are riding high on their recent Grammy wins on the back of their debut self-titled album. Highlights of their set were Wet Dream with its duelling guitars, Ur Mum and their breakout hit Chaise Lounge. They put in a fantastically heavy and energetic performance and for those concert goers in the know about this band, it was a great opportunity to hear them live in Melbourne again. As soon as they left the stage, the classic 1D song that came over the PA had the crowd looking and sounding more animated than they had for their entire set. It’s a hard gig being the opening act for an audience that’s collective heart belongs to Harry.
As soon as Styles bounded onto the stage the whole stadium erupted. There was crying, screaming and faces filled with sheer joy. There were people of all ages, ethnicities, genders but the majority of the crowd were made up of One Direction fans from tweendom now aged 21+ with many mothers in their 50s and grandmothers 65+ who had been force fed their music by their young charges during the years when 1D were their world. Styles, the most charismatic of the bunch well and truly picked up where 1D left off and continued the momentum tonight’s Love On Tour extravaganza. He started the show as he started his latest album Harry’s House with Music From a Sushi Restaurant, straight into the main course with a rousing rendition of the gloriously melodic Golden from his 2019 album Fine Line. At this point, I felt like I was experiencing something akin to those mythical Beatles concerts at the height of Beatle mania where all that could be heard were high pitched screams and enthusiastic crowd singing. This is 2023 and crowd behaviour has shifted from conservative to totally uninhibited with Harry announcing to the crowd that this was a safe place where people were “free to be whoever you’ve always wanted to be”.
Backed by a fantastic band, Styles occasionally strapped on a Gibson 335 and showed that he wasn’t just a song and dance man, he was the complete all-rounder. The Marvel Stadium setup with ramps reaching out like welcoming arms into the standing room GA section of the audience, enabled Styles to appear to float above the sea of waving arms and phones held aloft almost akin to the imagery conjured up in biblical texts of Jesus Christ walking on water as he sang Adore You to further induce the rapture. The breakdown section of the show was delivered from the mid crowd stage, with Styles flanked by a single guitarist and keys from the main stage with a heartfelt rendition of Matilda and Little Freak. A well-practiced crowd conversationalist, Styles was drawn to a number of people with signs held aloft at the stage barrier, quickly honing in on Fauve who was there with their parents and a plea for Harry to help them come out. Ever the gentleman, of course he complied, not before quizzing their mother on the origins of the previously unfamiliar to him first name – he obviously hasn’t heard the music of Melbourne’sFauves! The amount of warmth and respect given to Fauve in this life affirming moment was infinite and highlights what a positive force this man and his music really are.
A consummate entertainer, Styles put everything he had and then some into tonight’s performance. Treat People With Kindness from Fine Line led perfectly into the surprise track of the night and probably the pivotal moment of the set – a cover of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful, the song that likely started this affair with everyone in attendance including Harry. Breaking up the crowd frenzy with some more crowd banter gave the more mature attendees a chance to catch their breath and regroup ahead of the viral smash Watermelon Sugar and closing the set with Love of My Life, the closing track on Harry’s House to perfectly bookend the performance. A three-song encore rounded out the evening with his first single release from his 2017 self-titled debut album in Sign of the Times, followed up by the song everyone was anticipating, the fabulously slick production of As it Was from 2022’s Harry’s House and finally the rocking Kiwi, also from his first album to finish the show.
Humble and thankful to the very end, Styles made the audience individually and collectively very special. He made a connection through words and music and good old-fashioned showmanship. There were a few artful backlit projection pieces on the screens as the show progressed but this show wasn’t reliant on flashy peripherals to entertain. The band, the music and the man were what was served up here tonight and the crowd happily and eagerly ate up every last morsel.