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How the First MSG Show Turned Into a Party – Billboard

Written by on 21/08/2022

Harry Styles made a single request of his fans on Saturday night (Aug. 20). “I ask only one very very simple thing — I need you to have as much fun as you can possibly have,” he said, a grin smiling as he looked at the throngs of screaming admirers packed into Madison Square Garden. “I challenge you to have as much fun as I’m gonna have.”



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The sold-out crowd of roughly 20,000 fans didn’t need this reminder — even before Styles took to the stage for his first of a whopping 15 shows at the iconic New York City venue, the attendees were operating on a good-vibes-only basis. Those vibes started with a set from alternative R&B star Blood Orange, which saw the performer break out hits like “You’re Not Good Enough” and “Time Will Tell” throughout a chilled-out set. They continued as the crowd sang along to hits from One Direction, Queen and even Frank Sinatra as they waited for Styles to take to the stage.

Once he did, though, that energy was turned up to an 11. Wailing along with Styles as he pulled out recent favorites like “Daydreaming” and “Adore You,” every word of the star’s performance was being echoed by a crowd of attentive devotees.

The space, meanwhile, remained relatively spartan for a tour of this magnitude — a few sets of drums and keyboards set on either side, Styles’ stage sat smack-dab in the middle of the iconic venue, with catwalks extending to either side where the star could rush out and sing directly to the crowd. 

It was a set up Styles made sure he mentioned early-on in his set of bangers. “Quick disclaimer — this show is in 360 degrees, we’re in the round,“ he said. “Sometimes we’re gonna be face-to-face, eye-to-eye, window to soul-to-window to soul. That means that some of the time I’ll be facing away from you, and you’ll be face-to-ass. If you find yourself discovering a preference, let me know and I will deliver face and ass evenly.”

This kind of cheeky repartee with an all-too-eager audience was on full display throughout Saturday night’s affair. At one point during the evening’s proceedings, the star noticed a fan  named Ingrid holding a sign that stated she and her boyfriend had broken up after seven years together. Upon learning that her lost love’s name was Josh, Styles immediately began taunting the absent figure. “It’s always a ‘Josh,’ isn’t it?”

In a stunning moment of crowd work, Styles ended up getting the fan to pass her phone up to the stage so he could call the young man and give him a piece of his mind — yet as soon as he answered, Josh hung up. “I hope you all the happiness, but not with Josh,” he said with a gentle smile. “Someone who treats you with respect and loves you for who you are — it’s never Josh!”

While the night consisted of Styles delivering a series of beloved tracks — primarily from his latest album Harry’s Housethe highlight came from a string of four songs in which the icon-in-the-making embraced his rock star status. Kicking things off with “Cinema,” Styles invited a four-piece jazz outfit to the stage, all dressed in matching red jumpsuits, to bring some new flair to the track. Channeling the crowd’s energy, he used it for a non-stop set of transitions to “Music for a Sushi Restaurant,” followed by Fine Line’s “Treat People With Kindness,” and closed out with One Direction’s signature song, “What Makes You Beautiful.”

Whether he was sprinting around the stage to concert closer “Kiwi” or kicking his legs up into the air as the hook of “As It Was” blared up, it was clear that Styles was having a fabulous time on stage Saturday. “I’ve had the pleasure of playing this building several times in my career, and it’s been amazing every time,” he told his fans at the end of his set, an ever-present roar going up as he finished the thought. “Without you, it’s me playing to an empty room — and that’s a very different crowd.”

With a sly smile, he added, “Make some noise for Josh, wherever he is.”

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