Review: Harry Styles makes stage his own at Madison Square Garden
While Styles’s residency at Madison Square Garden nears its end, he dazzled on Sept. 15 with a high energy performance.
Madison Square Garden seemed like the perfect place to see Harry Styles. With the opulence and reputation his name commands, only a renowned stadium could fit the bill. Nearing the end of his 15-night residency and with charisma to spare, Styles himself may as well have called me himself and told me to purchase tickets. Or at least that is what I tell myself to justify the exorbitant price. A vibrant performer and even more personable guy, Styles’s banter with the crowd and powerful performance completely transformed MSG into Harry’s House.
Attending this concert felt like the culmination of my years of love for Harry Styles. I have been an avid fan since I was about 11 — like many young girls in the 2010s, I was obsessed with One Direction. In all honesty, I still am. After the tragedy of the band’s breakup in 2018, I latched onto Styles’s solo career with a fervor that could rival any fangirl. I have many fond memories relating to his music: I saw One Direction on their “Take Me Home” tour with 5 Seconds of Summer (an impressive flex for those who follow the lore of Directioners) with my dad, sat on my dorm room floor with my best friend watching Harry Styles tour clips when COVID-19 restrictions had ruined my freshman year and now, I get to add this concert as the start of my New York experience, living here for my off term. Harry Styles has been with me for all the big moments of my life.
Madison Square Garden was transformed into an ode to Harry Styles; the venue was bathed in pale pink and primary colors, with countless opportunities for themed photos. A large sign declaring “MSG is Harry’s House” and a bench styled after a subway with the same tagline lined the hallways. The merchandise was a collection of adorable pastels — and while admittedly overpriced, I myself fell victim to a stunning lavender hoodie, which has since become my uniform. There was no part of MSG that Styles hadn’t touched: there was even a themed watermelon cooler drink, named after the hit single “Watermelon Sugar.” All the while, Styles seized the opportunity to advocate for important social causes, calling on fans to sign up for early voting and aid in ending gun violence during his set.
After his opener, “Blood Orange,” Styles came out onto the stage like he owned it, rising up on a platform in the middle of the stage and immediately jumping into “Daydreaming.” While it wasn’t the opening song I expected, it had the entire crowd up and moving with its cheerful lyrics and repetitive chorus — the cheers were deafening. Styles quickly established that this would be an active performance. Running around the stage in a polka dot top and pink pants, no fan was left wanting.
With the exception of “Golden” and “Adore You” — fan favorites from his second album “Fine Line” — the beginning of the concert predominantly featured songs from Styles’s most recent album, “Harry’s House.” This concert had the rare gift that every song sounded even better live. In person, there is a rawness and vulnerability in Styles’s performance that heightens the listening experience. “Matilda,” an already tender song about familial struggles and found connection, was even more powerful as it brought tears to my eyes. “Satellite” and “Cinema” — two songs I did not appreciate enough when I first heard them — were particularly amazing and are new favorites of mine.
All of Styles’s songs invite movement, demanding a smile and dance from every listener, which makes for a phenomenal atmosphere in the venue. However, no song got the crowd as excited as “What Makes You Beautiful,” One Direction’s most famous song. It was nice to hear Styles acknowledge his roots in the band as the performance felt like a subtle wink to long time fans. The entire stadium let out a unanimous cheer as the well-known song began, and the ground shook as every single person was up and moving.
My favorite part of the concert, however, was the encore. Leaving after “Love of My Life,” all fans knew there would be an encore as Styles had yet to perform three of his greatest hits. As Styles returned to stage and the opening chords of “Sign of the Times” played, tears sprung from eyes. “Sign of the Times” is a song I have a powerful connection with: It makes me think of my friend who passed away as we always had a shared connection over Harry Styles. Hearing it live brought out an array of emotions, both happy and sad — but most of all made me smile at our memories together. This was the highlight of the concert, as it reminded me how emotionally attached I am to Styles’s music. Following my emotional moment, Styles rounded out the concert with a lively performance of “As It Was” and “Kiwi,” ending the concert on a high note.
Not only is he a talented performer, Styles consistently engaged with the audience. He reacted to the plethora of risque signs brought in by fans and caught feather boas lobbed from the pit. He led a venue wide performance to sing “Happy Birthday” for a fan in the pit while joking about her “vodka tears” from her celebration. He even took a fan’s BeReal, an app in which users post one photo per day at a random time that is prompted by the app. It made my own BeReal from the seats seem quite lame in comparison.
Despite his mass fame, wealth and success, Styles seemed so human, even as he stood on stage surrounded by thousands of people — many of whom would do anything for him. He repeatedly thanked fans, frequently emphasizing his gratitude for our support. While I am sure that Harry Styles — beloved musician and America’s British crush — is not the most humble person, his appreciation was genuine. Knowing that the man I have revered since before puberty is kind on top of being talented made the concert that much sweeter.
Harry Styles’s concert at Madison Square Garden proves that he was born to be a performer. With talent to spare, Styles beautifully performed his discography with a rawness and passion that incites awe in the listener. But more than that, the concert was an experience. With a venue full of avid fans — all donned in feather boas and sequins — dancing along, the atmosphere in MSG was uniquely welcoming. “Harry’s House” never felt so fitting.