Monday, 16 April 2018

give me that adrenaline: harry styles at manchester arena

it's hard to believe that it's only been a week since i was waiting for harry styles to take to the stage at manchester arena. i had a good idea of what the show would entail and wasn't sure whether to write another review after seeing him in london just a few months ago, but he added a few new songs to the setlist and i was intrigued to see how the crowds compared from london to harry's hometown of manchester.

in what turned out to be a wonderful coincidence, we had similar seats to that of the courteeners gig we'd attended at the arena just two days earlier, giving us an excellent view of the stage, though the lower part of the arena was also seated, save for a surprisingly empty standing area right near the front. (i suspect this was some kind of VIP area where tickets cost an absolute fortune, as i can't think of any other reason why it wouldn't have been full to the brim with dedicated fans.)

after some excellent pre-show songs from david bowie and elton john, capital's most played mabel took to the stage. an established act in her own right, she seemed an odd choice to support harry, as her R'n'B influenced pop couldn't be more different from his 70s inspired rock sound. nevertheless, the crowd seemed to enjoy her set, with the majority knowing the words to singles like fine line and finders keepers, which is hardly surprising when her songs are played ten times a day on mainstream radio stations. 

it was then another agonising wait until harry arrived on stage, which had remained largely unchanged apart from a large screen projecting colourful, instagram-worthy illustrations throughout the show, but the joy of harry's live show is that he doesn't need to rely on a dazzling light show or too much audience participation (looking at you, thirty seconds to mars) to get the crowd going. 

when he eventually opened the show with only angel, the screams across the arena were deafening, but just like in london the crowd were word perfect. i was also delighted to see that my prediction that he would wear a red suit had in fact come true, and my mother spent half the night admiring the cut of said suit, which he paired with a beetlejuice inspired striped shirt. on anyone else it would have looked ridiculous, but the boy really can do no wrong. 

my favourite track woman followed, along with two ghosts and my mother's favourite carolina (a bit too country for my liking), before he launched into stockholm syndrome, which as i've mentioned many times is my favourite one direction song, and it was just as good the second time around. 

one thing i was eagerly anticipating was the introduction of two unreleased tracks, anna and medicine, which has been hailed by fans as a bisexual anthem, though it would be foolish of us to ever expect harry to confirm or deny this one way or the other. the track certainly didn't disappoint though, and it's just a shame we might never get a studio version. 

harry then disappeared for a second before sashaying along a walkway which stretched right across the arena, eventually stopping at a smaller stage where he performed my second favourite track sweet creature and the incredibly unexpected if i could fly, which appeared on made in the A.M. and sent larry shippers into overdrive upon its release in 2015. i spent most of the song in shock that i was actually hearing it, and sorely missing the band; here's hoping they might reunite for their tenth anniversary.

once i'd recovered from my state of shock, harry bounced back over to the main stage and performed what makes you beautiful, which had been given a slight revamp in order to align more closely with the sound of his debut album, but still retained the cheesiness we all know and love. then came sign of the times, the whole arena alight with iphones, and i had to try my hardest to hold back the tears as i still couldn't believe harry was actually there in front of me, at a venue i've loved for years (hearing him talk about attending shows there as a teenager will never not be surreal, as there's every chance i could have gone to the same gig as a pre-fame harry). 

finally there was the encore, which consisted of low-key ballad from the dining table, his incredible rendition of fleetwood mac's the chain, and kiwi, which i'd totally forgotten about and ended up being one of my highlights of the night. 

then it was all over and we were back outside in the drizzle - a permanent fixture of manchester weather - and on the bus home again, singing harry's praises the whole way. though the stage and setlist remained largely unchanged, its harry's charm and charisma that sees him filling arenas across the world, and i can't help but smile every time i remember his initial hesitation that nobody would come to his smaller gigs or buy his new album. then i remember that curly haired sixteen year old who stood on stage as a solo artist at the x factor all those years ago, marvelling at how far he's come and where he'll go next.

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