NEW YORK – There are many reasons why people are wild about Harry.
Styles, that is – the dashing British pop phenom who parlayed his hunk-a-zoid standing in One Direction into a potent solo career magnified by his keen musical instincts.
On Friday, Styles, 28, released his third solo album, “Harry’s House,” a luscious mélange of pop, funk and soul coupled with lyrics both silly fun (“Music for a Sushi Restaurant”) and piercingly tender (“Matilda”).
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To celebrate the arrival of his most comprehensive work, Styles parked himself at UBS Arena on New York’s Long Island for a special one-night show Friday . He and his taut six-piece band zipped through the 13 songs on “Harry’s House” for an ear-bleedingly loud crowd of 16,000 as well as for fans livestreaming the show on Apple Music (an encore airs at noon ET on Sunday ).
Leading up to Styles’ arrival on stage, his predominantly female fan base – most of them old enough to swig a $17 can of White Claw, others content with their $14 fountain soda – amused themselves with full-throated singalongs of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “New York, New York,” proof of Styles’ ability to introduce his generation to ageless masterworks.
But the moment the curtain dropped to reveal Styles, in his red-hearted shirt and bulky yellow necklace, standing perfectly still in front of a lighted outline of a house, the crowd erupted in a frenzy that never waned during the 90-minute show.
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Styles performed the album in track order, “the way it was intended to be heard,” he said from the stage. The sound was muddled for the opening double punch of “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” and the funky “Late Night Talking,” but was fine-tuned by “Grapejuice,” as Styles’ creamy vocals blended with the steady thump of the Paul McCartney-esque song.
The album’s first single, the perfect pop confection “As it Was,” found Styles bopping down the T-shaped catwalk, swinging his hips and windmilling around the stage with his unfettered moves that should be called the Fevered Harry Dance.
There is something infectious about watching Styles have so much fun onstage and his presentation seemingly emanates from a place of purity.
Several times during the show he thanked the audience for “changing my life over and over again” and also noted with palpable sincerity, “It’s me who stands upon the stage, but I learn so much from you.”
He also chatted easily between songs, thanking collaborators including Kid Harpoon and Ben Harper – who were in the crowd – as well as his longtime ally, band guitarist Mitch Rowland, who received a rock star’s reception upon introduction.
While the performance of an album in running order doesn’t always lend itself to ideal duplication live – set lists are meticulously crafted to ebb and flow with purpose – “Harry’s House” flows seamlessly.
Styles easily shifted from the thoughtful “Matilda” – his voice thoroughly angelic as he sang lyrics that resonated even deeper live (“If anyone in the audience feels this applies to them – it does,” he said) – to the groove-infested “Cinema.” As his lithe frame skipped and strutted across the wide stage, Styles whipped the microphone cord behind him, a move he would later repeat during the escalating “Satellite.”
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He also harmonized angelically with the female members of his band on “Boyfriends,” – which he said he wrote at the end of the “Fine Line” sessions in 2019 – and closed the album portion of the show with “Love of My Life,” its simple synth chords and pumping bass drum an elegant conclusion.
It was not lost on the audience that this was likely the only time they would hear many of the songs on “Harry’s House” played live. Styles returns for a U.S. tour in late summer, when he’ll set up mini-residencies in New York, Austin, Texas, Chicago and Los Angeles. But with his growing catalog, only a handful of new tunes could be expected to return.
Though fans would have been sated with this special hour of music, Styles reappeared after a two-minute break to delve into the familiar. As he attempted the opening lines of “Adore You,” the singing of the crowd overwhelmed him, so he pivoted to walking down the catwalk with the mic stand extended, allowing the voices of the faithful to carry the song.
This extended encore immediately felt like an arena spectacle, with timed lights and an even more invigorated Styles riding a deeper percussive take on “Watermelon Sugar” and the giddy nostalgic blast of One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful.”
But it was his “Sign of the Times,” his debut solo single in 2017 that signaled his artistic arrival, that rang the truest. Styles walked the foot of the catwalk hoisting the Ukrainian flag as he sang “Remember everything will be alright/we can meet again somewhere/somewhere far away from here.”
It was a deeply perceptive moment from one of pop’s most charmingly chameleonic purveyors.