A British invasion

Harry Styles charmed fans at Wells Fargo Center with One Direction classics and solo favorites

On stage: Harry Styles, the ever-charming former One Direction frontman, returned to Philadelphia for the second time in a year to bring Harry Styles Live On Tour to thousands of fans at Wells Fargo Center. Source: Harry Styles Twitter / Helene Pambrun Photography

Imagine having the power to make 20,000 people swoon by simply flashing one dimpled smile. For Harry Styles, this has basically become a daily norm. But when you’re a talented, internationally successful pop star (who’s not exactly hard on the eyes), having every action met with tears of joy comes with the territory. Thankfully, Styles hasn’t let it go to his head.

On Friday, June 15, the ever-charming former One Direction frontman returned to his favorite land of cheesesteaks to bring Harry Styles Live On Tour to thousands of fans at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. Though a number were lucky enough to snag tickets to his Tower Theater show in October, which tided them over until the larger-scale concert, the rest were forced to wait an excruciating 365 days after tickets went on sale June 15, 2017.

But for the hordes of millennial girls (along with a few parents and supportive boyfriends), the wait was more than worth it. Hours prior to the doors opening at 7 p.m., fans could be found camping outside the venue in the summer heat, hoping to steal a glimpse of the British heartthrob arriving for rehearsal.

Once inside, lines for the merchandise booths instantly stretched around the circular perimeter, and understandably so. While a few items were your typical concert T-shirts emblazoned with Styles’ face and list of tour dates, the most popular sellers were printed with inspirational phrases such as “Treat people with kindness.”

At 8 p.m., the show kicked off with Styles’ supporting act, country singer Kacey Musgraves. It was clear the two artists don’t quite share the same fanbase, but all attention was on the black glitter-clad star when she performed her hit “Follow Your Arrow.”

By 9 p.m., the crew had begun transitioning the stage for the man of the evening. Though the house lights were still on, the majority of the venue jumped up in unison when an animated video of Styles’ tattooed hands attempting to solve a Rubik’s cube started to play on the screen. For nearly 15 minutes, the video repeated over and over, with Styles never managing to actually finish the puzzle. Still, fans were captivated, hardly blinking as they watched in mesmerization.

When the lights did finally go down, the Wells Fargo Center erupted in a roaring scream as Styles’ cartoon hands were replaced by the real thing. Donning a stark white sport jacket and black skinny jeans, flowing hair neatly styled, Styles could arguably be compared to the second coming of Mick Jagger.

A perfect blend of modern pop star and ’60s rock icon, he commanded the stage as he performed the high-energy “Only Angel” off his 2017 self-titled album. If anyone in the crowd wasn’t already hyped up, “Woman” certainly did the trick. With its simplistic yet catchy chorus of “woman, la la la la,” fans danced along while belting the lyrics back to him at the top of their lungs.

Styles awarded the audience a breather, performing the mellower “Ever Since New York” and “Two Ghosts” before cranking the energy back up with “Carolina.”

The next few songs separated the diehard Styles fans from the bandwagoners. First was “Stockholm Syndrome,” a lesser-known One Direction track off the band’s 2014 album Four, followed by “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” a heart-wrenching piece Styles wrote for Ariana Grande. He then sang “Medicine,” a brand new track that, according to entertainment sites such as Billboard, has left fans questioning his sexuality due to lyrics that hint at a possible “bi” identification.

After the self-reflective breakup song “Meet Me in the Hallway,” Styles made his way down a specially-constructed walkway through a sea of grasping hands. To the delight of fans unable to land floor seats, he spent some time on a smaller stage toward the back of the venue. The strength of Styles’ voice truly shined during this portion of the show. As he performed the rhythmic ballad “Sweet Creature” and One Direction hit “If I Could Fly,” it was clear the 24-year-old’s success is due to much more than his looks.

Once he was back on the main stage, the crowd was graced with yet another new single, “Anna.” Styles then took a few moments to interact with a few lucky fans in the pit, hilariously calling out one girl for her inhuman-sounding scream.

“I’ve been trying for 24 years to make a noise like that,” he said in astonishment. “What was that noise?”

A fan named Heather received a special 20th birthday shout out from Styles along with a heartfelt promise that he would sign her shoe after the show. Styles attempted to play matchmaker for another, a Columbia University student who was hoping to find her significant other at her favorite artist’s show. He even took notice of a pregnant fan, whom he offered a chair and (with her permission, of course) announced her baby’s name to the crowd.

“Harry Styles is so respectful and such a light, he asked a pregnant woman in the crowd if she chose a name for her child and then kindly asked if he was allowed to share it with the rest of the crowd,” tweeted American Idol finalist Catie Turner of Langhorne, who was in attendance. “He makes everyone he makes contact with feel like they’re friends, it’s amazing.”

Styles also didn’t forget about the city he was in, telling everyone to “give it up for the Eagles,” something the dads in attendance against their will surely appreciated.

The next song was introduced as one Styles holds particularly close to his heart. As soon as the first guitar chord sounded, it was evident the fans do, too. “What Makes You Beautiful” served as the world’s first glimpse into what would be a record-shattering career for One Direction. Though Styles’ version had more of a jazz undertone than the five-part pop original, no one in the crowd seemed to mind. Fans scream-sang every word as Styles ran across the stage, waving a rainbow-colored flag.

The show could’ve ended right there without any complaints, but Styles still had more in store. Final songs included his first solo single “Sign of the Times,” the heartbreaking “From the Dining Table,” a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” and for the grand finale, Styles’ rock anthem “Kiwi.”

“You’re the reason I get to do this,” he said before taking his last bow. “I love each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart.”

We love you too, Harry. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com