From teen-pop to arena rock

I love boy band breakups. To me, they always represent the beginning of a new era: one of broadened horizons and endless possibilities. So when the temporary dissolution of One Direction was announced in 2015, you can imagine my excitement. For superfans around the world, however, this was not exactly a shared sentiment.

Initially promised to be an 18-month hiatus, it now appears we may never again see five young boys laughing, dancing or camping in music videos together. Despite this tragedy, the breakup has given each member the opportunity to develop their own sound separate from the group. For Harry Styles, this meant releasing a self-titled debut album that tricked Baby Boomers into thinking they were listening to the Beatles, Elton John or literally any rock band from the 1970s, only to discover that their daughter’s One Direction fandom had simply morphed into something much more powerful.

And since his time away from One Direction, Harry Styles has morphed into something much more powerful as well.

Evidenced by his show Monday night at the Golden 1 Center, he’s become a seasoned solo performer and a master at crowd work. Kicking it off with “Only Angel,” Styles invoked the spirits of rock ’n’ roll legends that came before him, combining vocals reminiscent of Steven Tyler with a dynamic set of dance moves that can’t not be compared to the likes of Mick Jagger or Freddie Mercury.

He’s got the charisma and humor of a great performer, too. Dressed in a one-piece tailored suit, Styles explained to the crowd that his outfit prevented him from moving his arms above his head, “So forgive me if I seem a little restricted,” he laughed. The wardrobe situation seemed to lend more to slower acoustic numbers like “Two Ghosts” or “Sweet Creature,” but it certainly didn’t stop him from tearing up the stage during the high-energy hard rock anthem, “Medicine.”

While Harry Styles was undoubtedly the star of the show, there’s something to be said about those in attendance that night as well. Among all the handmade signs boldly declaring romantic love for Styles, there were just as many signs boldly declaring that “Black Lives Matter.” Other fans draped LGBT Pride flags over section barriers and erupted into cheers when Styles pulled out his own flags and waved them around during the popular One Direction hit “What Makes You Beautiful.” As the night’s opening act, Kacey Musgraves, stated, “There is room for every kind of person here tonight,” an attitude proudly represented both onstage and in the crowd.

Styles’ performance was as much an homage to the past as it was a celebration of the future and the socially conscious youth who will take us there. As he closed out the concert, dousing fans in bottled water and wailing along to the unbelievably juicy bop that is “Kiwi,” I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been spiritually restored by the fountain of youth, imbued with a fresh outlook on life and an eagerness to take on the unknown.

There is so much to enjoy about Styles, and it’s worth it to attend his concerts if for no other reason than to witness a bunch of teens stomping their boots and chanting the lyrics to Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” It’s a truly beautiful sight to behold.