Night One - 18/06/22
On Saturday night (18/06/22), as you walk down Wembley Way, a trail of multi-coloured feathers and thousands of young people dressed in polyester and cowboy hats, line the street in screaming colour. At the end of this rainbow lays no pot of gold; however, to these ninety thousand making their way to their respective entrances of London’s Wembley Stadium, what’s at the end holds a whole lot more worth.
This pot of gold exists in the form of a flamboyant, glittering and eccentric ex-boyband member, turned modern global icon, Harry Styles, as he plays two consecutive sold-out nights at this premier venue, a massive achievement that proves him to be so much more than just another manufactured pop star.
The area outside of the gates leading to the seats is packed out with lines upon lines upon lines of fans bursting with euphoria, and these queues appear to have no end. As I cut through the lines to locate my seat, situated towards the top half of the stadium, it’s only then that I realise what it is that they are eagerly waiting for (other than the moment that they witness history in the making); these are the queues for the merch stands, many of which have already begun to sell out of some highly sought after products.
This, alongside the immaculately planned outfits donned by the thousands of Harries (the term frequently used to refer to Harry Styles fans, particularly online), proves tonight to not just be about the marketed “main event”, as do the moments shared between everyone in the stadium, anticipating Styles’s entrance on stage, following the support set from Mitski, during the pre-show playlist. The studio track of One Direction hit, Best Song Ever, is blasted through the speakers, provoking uproar from every inch of the stadium, before every single member of the audience sing along in unison. I’m left in awe, baffled by the enthusiasm prior to the gig having even started.
At 8:45, the lights around the opening of Wembley’s roof shine blue, as Harry’s House opener, Music For A Sushi Restaurant, is played alongside blocky, neon visuals projected on the giant plasma screens standing on either side of the stage, and Styles walks from the back of the stage, wearing heart printed dungarees, complete with a pocket in matching fabric for his receiver (an immaculate attention to detail), to screams enveloping the music.
From the get-go, Golden is a huge, glittering sing-along moment, so much so that Styles steps back from the microphone, looking down and laughing in a moment of seemingly genuine bewilderment, as the crowd fills in the lyrics without him. It’s refreshing to see an artist during a time of such critical acclaim seeming to be so humble (he introduces himself only as “Harry”) and in a state of adoration for what they do.
This is echoed in the interactions that Harry has with the crowd, so much so, making the 90,000 capacity feel intimate, taking time to thank “every single one of you” multiple times throughout the set, and encouraging the crowd to turn to those next to them, and tell them, “I love you” and “I’ve got you.”
An outpouring of love comes in the form of Matilda live; a song that has been taken under the wing of many fans and praised for how perfectly it matches their own, differing experiences and situations (You can let it go/You can throw a party full of everyone you know/You can start a family who will always show you love/You don’t have to be sorry for doing it on your own), as Wembley is engulfed in the light generated by iPhone torches. The girl behind me lets out long sobs, my best friend tears up, and the three friends in the seats in front of me hold each other and sway to the soft, delicate melody. It’s a moment of true beauty.
An equally slower moment is Boyfriends, a track introduced by Styles asking, “Who here has a boyfriend? Who here is a boyfriend? Who here has never had a boyfriend?” and so on, as fans cheer in response to the questions that best fit their circumstance. Styles moves amongst the standing area on the thrust stage, with only an acoustic guitar, and his band who offer backing vocals, in an almost acapella performance that breaks up the electrifying energy of the rest of the just under two hour set.
The performance feels like a real celebration of identity, a cause that Styles has consistently stood for over the course of his solo career, with him posing the question to the room, before Lights Up, “Do you know who you are?”, as the crowd let out a high-pitched scream (whilst wearing the clothes that they feel good in, whether that be bursts of colour, dressed as watermelons, or…well, dressed up as the Teletubbies). Equally, Fine Line track, Treat People With Kindness, offers a view of pure joy and love from up in the stands, with those in the pit pulling each other towards the back to perform little choreographed dance routines, and some even starting a huge conga line around the standing area.
Styles goes back to his roots, playing One Direction debut single, What Makes You Beautiful; a song that many here tonight (including myself) have grown up to the soundtrack of, but differently to the last time he played here at Wembley Stadium, he has put more of a classic rock spin on it.
The absolute confidence that Styles has oozes out every second that he stands on the stage, proving this show to not only be fuelled through the music and the force of love, but also charisma. In an ode to the iconic late Freddie Mercury, and his performance on this very site with Queen, during Live Aid in 1985, Harry starts a chant, which just like his musical hero, exemplifies how he has the crowd hanging onto his every word, and in the very palm of his hand. “I am yours, I will never stop attempting to repay you, not even in the tiniest bit”, he tells his adoring following later on in the evening, “This doesn’t happen to people like me."
However, the most beautiful moment of the entire show is one that no-one could have rehearsed. As soon as the chords of the piano led ballad, Sign Of The Times, Styles’s debut solo single, are played, the heavens open, drenching everyone in a biblical and utterly breathtaking moment. This continues throughout the song, with fans dancing together in the rain, as does Styles himself, and fireworks light up the dark sky above.
It’s a cinematic experience in real-life, and an event that will without a doubt be recreated in Styles’s biopic in the future. It was an honour to have witnessed it.
The night closes on Kiwi complete with an extended outro, allowing one final celebration of unity, the crowd singing louder than at any other point of the set. Styles does his famous “whale”, spitting water into the air and running around the stage, further drenching his fans, in a moment that staples him as an iconic modern rockstar.
As I get into the lift to leave the stadium, the girl opposite me turns to her friends and exclaims, “I can die happy now”, a phrase that seemed to perfectly round off an unforgettable and breathtaking evening of pure love, positivity and celebration.