The lights dimmed to the tune of Shuggie Otis’ “Sweet Thang” while the feeling of anticipation filled the room. First, the band walked on stage. They moved to their places intently, like there was no place they’d rather be. Charles Bukowski’s voice entered the room reading his poem, “Style,” only slightly drowned out by screaming fans. The band began to play, and the screams only got louder. Then, at center stage, Harry Styles rose into the arena to his hit single, “Golden.”
I saw Harry Styles for the first time on November 19, 2021. I bought tickets in 2019 when the tour dates were released, and after waiting for two years, I was looking forward to this show more than anything. But what I’ll remember most from the show isn’t a song or a guitar solo or even an interaction with the performer himself, it’s the atmosphere Styles’ created.
I attended the show with my sister, and we got to the 8 o’clock concert around 4 p.m. When we arrived, the line for general admission wrapped entirely around the building and then some. It was full of tents, blankets, and people, either in their concert outfits or stepping out of their tents in sparkly suits and actively putting on red lipstick. My sister was shocked, asking me, “Did they sleep here?” A Harry fan’s dedication to seeing their favorite performer is almost stronger than his love for Watermelon Sugar.
When I stepped into my place in line, I was instantly greeted with kindness. People complimenting my outfit, and I, returning the gesture. No one was afraid to talk to one another; it was like we all had been friends for years. And considering some people have been going to his shows since 2010, maybe they have been. People ran into line hugging their friends and asking where other people were. We discussed what songs we were most excited to hear, and hoped and prayed he might play a song that’s not included on the normal setlist.
At one point, two girls even pointed me to an off-limits area full of porta-potties. We had nowhere else to go, so we ventured into the unknown together, like we trusted each other — strangers — with our lives.
But the love didn’t end there.
Love on tour
My sister and I were in the pit (the pit is general admission on the floor, standing room only), and were lucky enough to be right next to the stage. As we stood there, I began to grow nervous. I’ve been to a lot of shows in my 21 years, and the pit almost always gets messy. People want to be as close to the stage and the artist as possible, so they push and push until there’s no room left to move. But at Love on Tour, it was the exact opposite.
As the crowd began to trickle in behind us, they were sitting down. I assumed it was only because of how early we were, so we sat too. We made friends with the girls behind us. One of them shared that her sister was still in a tent outside where she would meet her later and wait for the show the next day. I told the story of my One Direction handbag that I sadly left in the car, scared security would confiscate it for its size. When the show started, I braced myself for the worst. I was mentally prepared to be pushed up against the metal barricade for the rest of the night.
But, no one moved. Everyone stayed in their space and enjoyed the show from their small square of the arena. We continued to interact with each other, singing back and forth or choreographing small dances. People in the back of the pit danced freely, formed conga lines, and even lied on the floor during slow songs. Every single person was just happy to be there, in the front or the back. Happy to see the artist they loved, hear the songs they listened to every day, and be in a room full of people who felt the same way. If I didn’t know better, I would say Styles was there for that reason too.
Harry Styles knows how to work a stage. My sister said it, my dad agreed, and even my grandfather noticed it in the videos I forced him to watch on Thanksgiving a week later. He took up every inch of the stage, singing, dancing, and interacting with his fans. Just like his bandmates didn’t want to be anywhere else, neither did he. During “Lights Up” he wandered down the catwalk and admired the arena filled with the matches of iPhone light before running back upstage and dancing on the opposite end. While singing “Woman” he moved rhythmically to the beat, it was less active, but still very intentional. I can’t even begin to explain his performances of “Treat People with Kindness” or “Kiwi.” The man moves quicker than the energizer bunny but still manages to sing every note with his full chest, add note changes, and quickly switch the tempo when leading into his finale of “Fine Line” back at center stage, exactly where the show began.
And through it all, he thanked his fans constantly. To which I screamed back, “You’re Welcome!” as if we were having a personal conversation. He really makes it feel that way, though. As if you’re the only other person in the arena.
The most important person in the room
A Harry Styles show feels personal. Whether you’re on the ground or in the nosebleeds, if he helps you come out to your mom or doesn’t look at you once, it feels like you’re meant to be there. Styles makes it feel like if you weren’t there, the show would have been completely different. It wouldn’t have been as good.
The way he makes sure to cover every inch of the stage, to create an atmosphere where everyone is friends, where you can be and act and dress however you want, it’s special. It makes you feel special. It feels clear he does it all for the enjoyment of his fans like our happiness is his paycheck. And in return, we leave having made friends and been nothing but our genuine selves for at least one night. We are what made the show so great. We are the most important people in the room.
I’m going to be honest: I went into the concert thinking I would leave telling the story of the performance: what songs he played, his note changes, and an in-depth review of the concert itself. But this is what stuck with me. It’s about the fans, the atmosphere, the energy. I’ve never been to a show like Love on Tour, and I’m not sure I ever will again.