By Brandi Powell, Contributing Writer
Just over 6,000 people were packed into Radio City Music Hall for a sold-out show on Thursday night. The crowd was radiating with excitement; fans clad in newly-purchased merchandise, winged eyeliner, and bright smiles filled the main lobby. Everyone was anxious; ex-Directioner and heartthrob Harry Styles was performing. His notoriety stems from his boy band past, a legendary one at that.
Each member of One Direction has taken a different genre to focus on after their infamous split. Most remarkably is Harry Styles’ focus on classic rock. The stark contrast between his albums from One Direction and his solo, self-titled debut is evident. His voice has matured, his instrumentation has developed focus, and his attention to meaningful lyrics has peaked.
Before the show, Radio City was a sea of young women, all conversing exuberantly. The audience itself was very much unlike a typical One Direction show. This mostly-female crowd had aged with the band; there was not a preteen in sight. Harry’s success is in large part to his devoted following, but his newest release shows a potential to enlarge his audience demographics.
The opening band, MUNA, was as mediocre and bland as their name suggests. The singer’s voice showed no range, and the songs streamed like one continuous flow of modern elevator music. The crowd acted as if nobody was onstage, and it was genuinely hard to tell.
Another half-hour passed before the lights went down, leaving a silhouette of Harry and his guitar on a floral sheet. The crowd instantly transformed into a sea of screaming, but his raw voice broke through the noise. The fitting opening song was “Ever Since New York” and the heartfelt intention was not lost on the crowd.
Harry then relaxed into another soft track, “Two Ghosts”, before launching into the upbeat “Carolina”. The crowd was not quite prepared for Harry’s introduction to an old One Direction hit, “What Makes You Beautiful”. The floor reverberated with the crowd’s passion. It had been easy to mistake Styles for an up-and-coming rock performer before this song, but the singer has always remained thankful for his roots and the songs that launched his career.
A sexier, more mature version of his One Direction past came in the form of “Woman”, which had the entire crowd dancing raunchily amidst the aisles. Harry’s mix of his pop background and a deep respect for rock-and-roll blended perfectly to create his debut album. Those who had never dared to listen to One Direction now found themselves enamored with the British singer’s new style.
Styles has a knack for altering hits into his own swooning ballads. He took the time to cover Ariana Grande’s “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart”, turning it into a beautiful rock anthem. A later cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” was surprisingly well-done. Although a majority of the audience did not appreciate the effort, the band behind Harry certainly had fun with it.
Styles took time to acknowledge the trouble in performing so early on in his solo venture, admitting he was sorry that he “only ha[s] ten songs”. By the end of the night, Harry had played what he hopes to be his next single, “Kiwi”, two and a half times.
The crowd of teenage girls failed to strip Harry of his new individuality and legitimacy as a solo artist. While he may be intricately tied to his pop roots, the artist has proved himself a worthy rock artist to watch in the coming years.