“I thought you said Bolton!” It’s a few songs into Harry Styles’ first night of two at the O2, and he’s having trouble hearing fans’ replies to his questions. Little surprise really; the singer can’t finish a sentence without screams re-erupting from every crevice of the arena. “Oh, Portugal?” he quips. “Er… the weather’s a bit different to Bolton.”
Tonight could so easily be a walk in the park. All Harry need to do to elicit rapture from the crowd is lift his Gucci-clad arms. And naturally, he’s got this arena pop schtick down pat, whether it’s throwing away the old section-by-section call-and-response as a mere aside, automatically making sure to prowl every inch of the stage, or heading over to a second stage at the back to make sure they get a good view too.
Still, it’s when he shies away from these tropes that he shines - and, aided by a pink velvet and gold matador-style jacket and gold-stripe trousers, shine he definitely does. Along with the hits - both solo and bringing along a couple of One Direction favourites, he takes time to air two new songs, ‘Medicine’ and ‘Anna’. Both are, obviously, sung word for word, and take their cues from the rockier side of his self-titled debut. The former’s much-discussed lyrics (“treat you like a gentleman”, “I mess around with him and I’m okay with it”) inciting some of the night’s loudest points, while the latter segues seamlessly in and out of a couple of lines from George Michael’s ‘Faith’. Completely confident in his role as frontman proper, playing around like this really suits Harry.
Performing his now customary cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ minutes after twirling a pair of rainbow Pride flags around to One Direction’s calling-card ‘What Makes You Beautiful’, while mocking the pretence of encores somewhere between the two, with the O2 at his every whim, Harry’s every bit the 21st Century rock star tonight.
Photos: Emma Swann