“This is a very special night for me and for us,” Harry Styles said in front of nearly 20,000 viewers at the UBS Arena on Friday and millions from over an Apple Music live stream. “We’re in New York City for just one night, and we’re going to play this new album for you as it was meant to be heard: from start to finish.”
And with a gigantic neon outline of a house behind it, Styles and his tight-knit band did just that: At a “One Night Only” concert, Styles and his tight-knit band premiered his third solo album, Harry’s House, at an arena-sized album release party offered to Styles’ most loyal fans (although the title was a bit misleading: there’s a similar concert in London next week).
At every Styles concert, the devotees exchange stories like battle scars. “What One Direction tour did you see?” “Did you get a ticket to Harryween?” “Are you still friends with the girls you met at Love on Tour?” But despite the concert’s name, scarcity isn’t Trait anyone would attribute to Harry Styles these days: His pandemic-delayed “Love on Tour” raged across North America for most of last fall, he headlined Coachella last month, he just dropped a song on his new album, and on the side was he’s a favorite of Anna Wintour, muse of Alessandro Michele of Gucci and a boyish face for Christopher Nolan. And with barely a break, he’s on the move again, embarking on a European tour next month, returning to the States for three months in the fall. Harry fans’ cups are overflowing.
Still, Friday night marked the first time he’d performed most of the new album in front of a live audience, so the sense of an event was palpable and felt like a secret privilege to many.
But Harry’s House is a departure nonetheless, and performing an entire brand new album, even to an adoring crowd, is undoubtedly a nerve-wracking challenge. Add to that the fact that it’s a more intimate album than its flamboyant predecessor, Fine Line, and many of its upbeat, airy songs aren’t fodder for an oversized stadium tour. Styles, clad in a Gucci t-shirt and leather pants, looked slightly nervous as he and his well-rehearsed band rolled through the album’s first few songs – in order – and from the synthic hook of the album’s current hit single, ” As It Was” to offerings like “Matilda” and the light funk of tracks like “Daydreaming” and “Cinema”. Fans roared in agreement and many sang along at times, but most had heard the songs for the first time less than 24 hours before.
Styles rarely spoke to the crowd during the first few songs, but relaxed as the evening progressed. “How are we doing so far?” he asked during one of several digressions where he spoke about how much the album means to him, how it’s the product of “everything we’ve all been through in the last two years, collectively and as individuals,” and how pleased he was to bring it to fans, and how relieved he is to finally have it out in the world. “I think, I like it,” he said of the album. “But I’m very, very happy that you like it so far.”
As with Coachella, on “Boyfriends,” the album’s penultimate track, Styles was joined by three of his female band members for some tight harmonies over acoustic guitars. The song’s style is new to him — a slow, thoughtful, and serious ballad — but the lyrics are clearly aimed at the hearts of his core fandom: The song is “for anyone who has or hasn’t or has ever had a relationship with a friend.”
As the album wound down, Styles told the crowd he’d be back shortly to play a few more songs, then dedicated the final “TK” to Rob Stringer, the head of his Sony Music record label. “You might think I’d hate the head of my record company, but I don’t,” he said, speaking of Stringer’s generosity in letting Styles borrow his house to work on the album, noting that the song was written there had been. (The sound you hear is Rob Stringer’s phone ringing as artists call to see if they can borrow his house too.)
At the end of the song, Styles left the stage briefly and then returned to play some older songs. While for the previous 45 minutes a (relatively) reticent Styles had been heavily focused on the new material, the encore was like being let out of his cage. He and the band roared through several of his biggest hits – “Love of My Life”, “Adore You”, “Watermelon Sugar”, “Sign of the Times”, his One Direction showcase “What Makes You Beautiful”, “Kiwi” . and even a crowd-singed-along repeat of “As It Was” — in a seemingly improvised set: at one point, the band seemed confused and vampires on an almost heavy-metal riff, while Styles ventured onto the runways, offstage headed toward the center of the arena for about the twentieth time that night. At least twice he left the stage but came back to play another song and the crowd roared at the finale as he waved first a Ukrainian flag and then his usual rainbow flag.
The two halves of the concert – “Harry’s House” and the encores of stadium-sized hits – presented the differences between his new and old material in stark relief. How he balances the pair on his upcoming month-long tour remains to be seen — but in the meantime, the ecstatic New York crowd (along with the millions who had watched the livestream) left knowing they had witnessed a historic night Harrylore.
Additional reporting by Jem Aswad.
https://variety.com/2022/music/reviews/harry-styles-one-night-only-harrys-house-concert-review-1235274207/ Harry Styles’ ‘One Night Only’ ‘Harry’s House’ Show: Concert Review