By now, most people know the name Harry Styles. From his origin band One Direction (2010-2016) to his current solo career as both a musician and actor, Styles has made a name for himself that has left a lasting impact on a large number of people. For years, he has mastered the art of engaging live audiences in a way few artists do, showing the average show-goer that they are worthy of a proper performance. Now, we are nearing the end of his current project—a 15-night residency at one of the most famous arenas in the country: Madison Square Garden. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 12th show there, an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
One of the best parts of seeing Styles live came during the breaks between songs, as he makes a show of interacting with the audience. People in the lower areas of the arena bring signs for him to read, and he entertains some of the wishes written on those signs. During my show, he sang to a fan who was holding a sign advertising that it was their 21st birthday. This moment, as everyone in the arena sang “Happy Birthday” to a stranger that we would likely never see again, showed the real beauty behind Styles’ performances: the community that formed amongst the fanbase.
Over the past few years, Styles has made an effort to show support for the LGBTQ+ community, and these efforts continued during his concerts. During the performance of “Treat People With Kindness,” someone in the audience threw a pride flag onto the stage; after noticing this, Styles began to wave the flag around, all while singing a song that is ultimately about accepting people and being kind to them despite their differences. It sent a message to every queer person in the audience that no matter what the rest of the world thinks, they were safe in that moment and that place.
While on the topic of the humanity behind concerts, it seems relevant to mention one of my favorite moments of the show. When performing the song “Love of my Life,” Styles made the mistake of singing the lyrics to the first verse when he was on the second verse of the song. After singing the wrong line, he smiled, acknowledging his mistake and creating an intimate, personalized moment between himself and the audience. Not only was this a unique moment that the audience got to share, but it also served as a reminder to everyone that despite their perfect appearances in the spotlight, celebrities are people too, and they make mistakes just like everyone else.
After that song, Styles continued to use his innate ability to entertain an audience by feigning the end of the show, disappearing from the stage while the lights shut off. This prompted the audience, myself included, to begin cheering for an encore—specifically yelling for him to play the unreleased fan-favorite song “Medicine.” This song, despite only ever being heard live, has an immense following; fans always hope he’ll surprise them by playing the song at their show. A few minutes later, the band came back on stage, and Styles, for the second time that night, was lifted up from the floor as the intro to his first solo single, “Sign of the Times,” blasted through the arena. The crowd cheered louder than they had all night. The cheering only crescendoed when the lights on the stage changed to pink and the opening chords to “Medicine” began to sound from the center of the venue. As soon as the crowd realized what was happening, we all began cheering (with no regard for the future of our vocal cords), celebrating the special moment we were about to experience.
Two songs later, when I felt as though my life could not possibly get any better, Styles gave his final farewell to his fans before departing the stage. As I stood in the sea of people, alone but not really, I could not keep the smile off my face. My throat was sore, and my ears felt as though someone had shoved cotton balls in them, but I could not have been happier with what I had just witnessed. I exited Madison Square Garden knowing that something had changed in me, feeling beyond grateful that I had the opportunity to experience this.