“O Canada! Our home and native land, ” Niall Horan said to the young crowd at Toronto’s Massey Hall, quoting the first line of Canada’s national anthem, two songs into his 75-minute set last night (Nov. 1).
His debut solo album, Flicker, is No. 1 in Canada — it actually climbed to No. 1 in 61 countries, including the U.S. — the first territory to go gold (40,000 units) since its Oct. 20 release. His six-week Flicker Sessions Tour has taken the 24-year-old One Direction singer all over the world: from his own native land, Ireland, to Australia, Japan, Brazil, the U.S. and now Canada.
“Welcome to the Flicker Sessions,” he said after kicking off with “The Tide” and “Seeing Blind” from the new album. “Because of you, this is not just a normal show. This is a ‘thank you’ show. It is you guys that took this album to No. 1 on the Canadian charts and I really appreciate it. This stuff doesn’t happen to people like me — or shouldn’t happen, anyway,” he laughs, showing a glimpse of his self-deprecating, humble personality.
The audience — who rushed the stage from the moment he came out and were on their feet on all three levels of the theatre — shrieked at things only teen girls are privy too, a sip of water, a movement, even a certain lyric.
“Now the mad songs are over for a while, so everyone can chill out,” Horan said, seemingly bemused by the reaction, even though he experienced it tenfold in stadiums and arenas for five years with One Direction.
His solo material is fairly chill, though, singer-songwriter/soft rock, backed by a five-piece live that included a drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and violinist. Horan, himself, switched between various electric and acoustic guitars. The stage was sparse, just his logo (NH) on the backdrop and a few eastern rugs.
After the lead single “This Town,” it was “Paper Houses” and “You and Me,” before he had to say something about the extraordinary 2,700-capacity theatre that has hosted shows over its 123-year history from George Gershwin to Neil Young — and his One Direction pal Harry Styles last month.
“I’ve been told so much about this venue over the years, and people have said that I need to go and play it,” Horan said, then diving into the story of first arriving at the venue after spending 12 hours on the bus to cross the border (with no problem). “It’s easy to get across the border in Canada. ‘Have a nice day, there bud. Here’s your passport.’ — And we’re in,” he laughed.
“So we arrived up here at like 9 o’clock this morning, come in, walk the hallways and there’s photos of my favorite artists of all time, all over the place. And I can see exactly why — this place is incredible,” he added, praising the sound, as well, before playing “Fire Away.”
The title track from Flicker came next for which he got even more chatty and complimentary to Canadian crowds: “You’re just the nicest people in the world…it’s just true.”
Before “Too Much To Ask” — his latest single — and harmony-heavy “Since We’re Alone,” he did acknowledge the “heckling” from the audience, beckoning to him from the balconies. “I don’t know if you know there’s a gig going on tonight? At The Massey. Some fella from Ireland’s playing,” he joked.
He capped the set with “Mirrors,” the heaviest song live in his arsenal, bordering on rock in the chorus, then introduced his band, “five handsome men,” before the uplifting pop-rock cut “On The Loose” and walking off stage without so much as a wave or ‘bye.’
Within a minute though, he was back, alone onstage, with his guitar.
“For this next one, I’m going to take you back a couple of years,” he said, referring to the One Direction days, before starting Four track “Fool’s Gold.” “At the end, they’ll be a separate chorus. I’m going to stand over there, play my guitar and you’re going to sing — I start it off. You take it over,” he instructed.
— Niall Updates (@NiallWWUpdate) November 2, 2017
Of course, the crowd happily obliged, resulting in an echoing sing-along that segued perfectly into the final two songs of the night: His No. 1 Pop Songs hit “Slow Hands” and the happy loner song “On My Own” — a funny choice for the finale, as he was anything but on his own in the sold-out venue.
A “massive massive thank you,” he said before closing the show, sending props to the “beautiful venue” and “top Canadian crowd.”