Pop

Harry Styles Proved How Healing Live Music Can Be During ‘Love On Tour’

Those who love live music, or have spent their careers working in the medium, have spent the last couple of years in limbo. Twin questions are looming for most people: When shows will return? And: When will I be ready to return to a show? Even as vaccines have helped facilitate a slow return to some form of normalcy, variants, the still-obvious risk factors, and a growing number of rescheduled and canceled tours keep the pandemic and the threat of Covid-19 at the front of the conversation. But this fall, into that void of fear, uncertainty, and anxiety stepped Harry Styles. Styles remains the ideal pop star for our next decade and the perfect host for plenty of fans to return to large gatherings without trepidation.

As the once and future breakout star of One Direction, Harry is an ideal performer to be throwing a lavish, kindness-infused show during a season of grief and uneasiness. He’s a seasoned vet when it comes to massive crowds, and he’s an expert MC who controls the emotion of the crowd with firm but friendly banter throughout his time on stage. He does all that, and still delivers one of the best pop performances of the last two decades. Already tapped during his first solo tour as a kingmaking performer with the ability to create an entire universe during his allotted set time, Harry set out off on rescheduled tour dates back in September, eager to bring his critically-acclaimed Fine Line album to a global audience of hungry fans.

As a fiercely inclusive icon who urges his audience to embrace themselves wholeheartedly, Styles is uniquely situated to be one of the first major pop acts returning to the stage in 2021. That’s in large part due to his self-proclaimed motto “Treat People With Kindness,” and when the song of the same name began during a tour-closing set at The Forum in LA this weekend, the track’s resonance overtook any overly earnest vibes that might’ve clouded the song’s impact when it came out two years ago. Even with just two albums out, there’s a number of songs that diehard fans seem to treasure as their own, and “TPWK” is one of them. On the other hand, some of the Fine Line-era singles have gotten so big – “Watermelon Sugar,” “Adore You” and “Golden” among them — that even attendees without much knowledge of the Styles canon seemed to at least know the hits.

But let’s face it, most people braving an indoor arena show at the end of 2021 aren’t casual fans, they’re the ones who have been looking forward to this moment for the last eighteen months. During his Saturday night show, Harry made it clear that his appreciation for and trust in the audience was just as strong as their appreciation for and trust in him. Joking about the diamond-shaped stage in the middle of the venue, he let fans know he’d be spending equal time facing them and facing away from them — pausing to let the whole room clap for his ass. This kind of easy camaraderie cut through any tension from the crush of getting into the packed venue, and set the expectation that each person at the set was just as important as the next. Sure, he might cater to his ever-whorling GA pit of most devoted listeners, but there was never a moment the rest of the stadium didn’t feel Harry’s star power, too.

That charisma was spotlighted most during moments like his clever cover of the One Direction standout, “What Makes You Beautiful,” or in quiet moments, like the interpolation of “Two Ghosts” that lead into a rendition of “Falling.” Though Fine Line might be getting more attention at the moment, Styles is careful to create a bridge between the two records, honoring early fan-favorites like “Cherry” and throwing in his debut solo single, the ’70s-throwback anthem “Sign Of The Times,” at the beginning of a lengthy four-song encore.

Finishing that encore with the unreleased cult favorite “Medicine,” his number one banger, “Watermelon Sugar,” and the dance-pit-frenzy-causing “Kiwi,” Styles left it all on the floor and then some. His insistence on creating a safe, passionate place for fans to enjoy his music live has turned his tour into one of the most powerful forces for good during an apprehensive year. And the excellence and unpredictably creative energy of his performances have helped prove that in-person concerts aren’t some kind of unnecessary luxury — they’re as much a space for healing as they are for entertainment. Check out the final setlist for Love On Tour below.

Harry Styles at The Forum, Saturday 11/20
1. “Golden”
2. “Carolina”
3. “Adore You”
4. “Only Angel”
5. “She”
6. “Two Ghosts” intro into “Falling”
7. “Sunflower, Vol. 6”
8. “Woman”
9. “Cherry”
10. “Canyon Moon”
11. “Treat People With Kindness”
12. “What Makes You Beautiful”
13. “Fine Line”

ENCORE
14. “Sign Of The Times”
15. “Medicine”
16. “Watermelon Sugar”
17. “Kiwi”

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