At Massey Hall last night in Toronto, former One Direction member Harry Styles blew kisses, slapped hands, sang Happy Birthday, snatched a fan’s rainbow-colored feather boa to wear; took a fan’s Canadian flag; and encouraged the crowd to hug an adjacent stranger.
What does this mean? That the 23-year-old can go with the flow and make the night his own, and different, however he wishes, without equal-say bandmates to consult or a rehearsal to follow.
The 70-minute, 14-song set couldn’t have been further from his boy band stage extravaganza — except for one thing, the ear-shattering screams from his committed female fans.
Two years ago Styles played the 46,000-capacity Rogers Centre in Toronto with One Direction; they’d played two concerts there just a year earlier. But Massey Hall is a 2,700-capacity soft-seater — which he sold out instantly — and an historic venue in the city that everyone from U2 to Neil Young has played. He’ll return next June to headline the Air Canada Centre.
Styles, who scored some new, older fans, when he released his impressive Bowie-esque first single, “Sign of the Times,” from his self-titled solo debut earlier this year, hadn’t managed to draw many of them out to his show this time — the audience was almost exclusively female, who shrieked the moment he appeared in silhouette behind the curtain.
Dressed in some ’70s-couch-fabric dark floral leisure suit but wearing it well, Styles came off immediately comfortable in the gorgeous historic setting — the ornate three-level theatre is over 120-years-old — his fans right at the foot of the stage. It had likely been a while, if ever, that there hadn’t been a security barrier separating them from his reach.
While everyone jumped to their feet from the opening “Ever Since New York,” they were all respectful, even though they could’ve easily leapt on the stage. Surprisingly, they also went easy on the phone filming and paid attention, singing every word and enjoying the object of their affection before them.
“You all look fabulous,” he said just before “Carolina,” asking for the house lights up. “My job for the next hours and a little bit is to entertain you. Your job is to do whatever it is that makes you happiest,” he said to the kind of screams one would expect if he had invited them out on a one-on-one date.
For Styles’ part, he gave them what they wanted. Backed by a four-piece rock band — drummer Sarah Jones (ex Hot Chip), keyboardist/vocalist Clare Uchima, bassist/vocalist Adam Prendergast and guitarist/vocalist Mitch Rowland (co-writer of “Sign of the Times’) — himself aiding on guitar for most of the set — he played all 10 songs from his solo album, including “Two Ghosts,” “Only Angel,” Woman,” “Kiwi” and “From The Dining Table,” plus reworked One Direction songs “Stockholm Syndrome” and “What Makes You Beautiful;” his co-write for Ariana Grande “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart;” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.”
Along the way, he chatted a bit, the amusing “My name is Harry. I’m from England” introduction and scripted line that he’s “very aware that I do only have 10 songs so thank you so much for coming out.” He asked if anyone had come to see him “with my wonderful friends,” before playing “Stockholm Syndrome” — a One Direction song he co-wrote — and then ditched the guitar for a while and made full use of the stage, waving, strutting and blowing kisses.
“You’re much louder than the Americans,” he said at one point before “Woman” and actually mouthed the words “I love you so much” mid-song, seemingly overwhelmed by the response he was getting. He shook some hands and took the Canadian flag and put it on the drum riser, before launching into “Meet Me in the Hallway.”
“I’m very happy to be able to play Massey Hall before it closes,” he said, before asking for clarification (“This could be very embarrassing”) and correcting himself that the venue would only be closing for refurbishment for two years.
He asked again for the house lights on. “I’d like to ask you for a favor. Join hands with the person next to you,” joking that people were probably annoyed they had to put their phone down for a second.
“We’re all together in this room. We all love each other. I love you very much. Thank you so much for being here tonight…Find someone in the audience you don’t know and give them a hug.” On command they did. But one guy in the front row pointed to Styles for the hug. The singer obliged.
“Please do the same outside,” he asked.
The set wound down with Grande’s “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” during which he spotted and snatched up the large multi-colored feather boa and draped it around his neck to rock out for the One Direction smash “”What Makes You Beautiful.” He concluded with the psychedelic stomper “Kiwi” with the scream-inducing line “I’m having your baby.”
He returned for the encore with “From The Dining Table,” telling the crowd, “Okay Toronto, I have you for about 10 more minutes” and introducing his band. He then got everyone clapping as he sang the 1977’s classic “The Chain.” But before he ended the night, he discovered it was 20-year-old Miranda Kowalik’s birthday.
“Is it actually today? I don’t want any frauds in the house,” he teased. “It’s today. Would you like us to sing?” He then asked her for her last name, and tried out the pronunciation. “kkkkk — with a hard ‘K.’ How do you spell that?”
“It’s Ukrainian! It’s bloody wonderful is what it is,” he concluded after finally sorting it out, then got the audience to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” and thanking her for choosing to spending her birthday with him.
The night wrapped with “Sign of the Times,” a particularly tough lyric given this week’s massacre but all was pure entertainment and joy inside Massey Hall.
— Harry Styles Updates (@TheHarrySource) October 5, 2017
Massey Hall Set List
Ever Since New York
Meet Me in the Hallway
Just a Little Bit of Your Heart
What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction song co-written by Styles)
From the Dining Table
Sign of the Times