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A sign of the times

Former One Direction frontman Harry Styles promoted peace and harmony during a sold out show in Philly

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

It was as if the second coming of The Beatles was taking place. Young girls, parents and supportive boyfriends stood for hours (some for days) in a line that wound through not one, but several streets surrounding Tower Theater in Philadelphia on Oct. 5. Each was vying to get the perfect spot to see their favorite charming, British heartthrob, Harry Styles.

On stage: Harry Styles performed at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia on Oct. 5. SAMANTHA BAMBINO / TIMES PHOTO

Earlier this year, the former One Direction star released his self-titled debut solo album Harry Styles featuring hits like “Sign of the Times” and “Two Ghosts.” Though it has a more 60s-rock vibe than the catchy pop tracks of the boy band, it’s an accurate representation of Styles’ artistry and musical tastes. And the fans loved it.

Now, he’s selling out shows across the country in a small-venue tour to promote the album before he kicks off yet another tour in 2018, which will include a stop at the Wells Fargo Center.

Throughout his years in One Direction, Styles’ appearance drastically evolved, becoming more Mick Jagger-esque with flowing hair and wildly patterned clothing. To incorporate this into the show, fans were greeted with a mauvy, pink floral curtain that spanned the length of the stage. At 9 p.m., to the screams and tears of the excited audience, Styles’ silhouette appeared in the center, growing larger and larger.

As he began to sing “Ever Since New York,” the curtain was raised, revealing Styles in a sharp black suit, bright red flowers on the pant legs, and hair falling in short, neat curls on top of his head. Unlike in his One Direction days, he played guitar, which surely made the girls swoon even harder.

With his natural, light-hearted persona (not to mention exquisite British accent), Styles commanded the stage. He took full advantage of the space and humorously interacted with audience members, calling out one fan for saying it was her birthday when in reality, it wasn’t.

The heart-wrenching “Two Ghosts” and grungier “Carolina” were played after the opening number, followed by the lesser known One Direction track “Stockholm Syndrome.” The full power of Styles’ voice shone through in the beautiful ballad “Sweet Creature,” and he got to let loose in the uptempo “Only Angel” and “Woman” before bringing things back down with the mellow “Meet Me in the Hallway.”

While in One Direction, fans were able to get a glimpse of Styles’ happy-go-lucky personality. Always laid back and smiling, it looked like nothing could get him down. Now, with the spotlight all to himself, he’s free to express this even more. After instructing his audience to find someone in the crowd that they didn’t know, he had one command.

“Embrace a stranger!” he shouted from the stage.

For the next minute, fans were in a peaceful chaos as they frantically searched for someone unfamiliar to hug. Once Styles’ unity of fans was through, he performed a cover of “Just A Little Bit of Your Heart,” which he wrote for fellow pop star Ariana Grande.

Much to the delight of dedicated One Direction fans, Styles did a rock rendition of their first and biggest hit, “What Makes You Beautiful.” Though it was a bit disconcerting to hear the verses of former bandmates Zayn Malik and Liam Payne sung by one person, it was a nice trip down memory lane.
The set ended with “Kiwi,” a highlight off the album with a questionable meaning as Styles belted out the chorus, “I think she said I’m having your baby, it’s none of your business.” Still, the fans screamed the lyrics right back. Whether it was such a hit with the crowd or because Styles is getting forgetful at the ripe old age of 23, he took a brief pause after the song before performing it again in its entirety. Not surprisingly, the fans didn’t mind at all, jumping and singing with even more energy than the first time around.
After Styles and his band exited the stage, Tower Theater erupted in a chant of “Harry, Harry” until he reappeared for a brief encore. Fans sang along to the emotional “From the Dining Room Table” and Fleetwood Mac cover of “The Chain” before the moment they had been waiting for all night arrived.

Energy was at an all time high as Styles closed out the concert with the first single off his album, “Sign of the Times,” an inspirational track with the message that everything will be alright in the end. And it certainly was as the lights turned on and fans trickled out of the venue after a night they had anticipated for months. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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