The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday July 23rd

Review: Harry Styles preaches kindness at D.C. show

Harry Styles performed at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall Sunday. Photo courtesy of Macie Spengler.
Buy Photos Harry Styles performed at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall Sunday. Photo courtesy of Macie Spengler.

I have always been a firm believer that concerts should be an environment that encourages uninhibited love, as well as providing a deep sense of healing. The overwhelming sense of love that I felt at Harry Styles’ concert was one incomparable to any other show I’ve ever been to. 

From the first look at the concert T-shirts being sold donning “TREAT PEOPLE WITH KINDNESS” to Styles stopping the show and directing everyone to connect with a stranger around them and embrace them — it felt as if I walked into a venue that immediately welcomed me back with open arms.

Styles’ “Treat People with Kindness” motto has been a pivotal aspect of his musical platform since July of 2013 when One Direction paired with Office Depot to launch an anti-bullying campaign. Styles’ main slogan for the campaign was “It costs nothing to be nice” (a quote that I have personally used across many different platforms). 

To have an artist who is actively pursuing and advocating for kindness at any chance is extremely influential as well as incredibly admirable. It seems to be a simple sentiment, but in actuality it is encouraging peace — something which the world seems to be lacking in. Personally, I really look up to and feel inspired by his constant efforts to treat others with kindness as I do genuinely believe that kindness can inspire change. To witness him spreading this message of love in person after following it so closely for so long was very, very special for me.

The concert took place in Washington, D.C. at the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall. The venue is directly beside the National Mall and the Washington Monument. The building appeared to be eerily similar to Wilson Library, which I observed with a fleeting feeling of needing to enter with a 10,000-pound backpack. That feeling shortly went away as we got in line to buy merchandise which, I will admit, was incredibly expensive (as expected) but oh, so worth it. Once we purchased really rad, concert-specific T-shirts, we entered the building to be confronted with many more merchandise tents and not a ton of room to move. The stage itself was centered in the middle of the DAR and the seats could only be reached through specific doorways, to enter you had to walk in a large circle following a secret code of numbers and letters above the doorways that only a select few (DAR staff) could decode.

MUNA, a dark pop girl band, opened the concert and they sounded absolutely amazing. I hadn’t previously listened to their music, but as soon as Katie Gavin started singing I was completely immersed. 

My favorite song performed was “I Know a Place” which spoke of “laying down your weapons” and feelings of free love. They performed several songs and, before the last one, Naomi McPherson made a statement along the lines of this: “I know being in the nation’s capital — it’s a really scary place for a lot of us here tonight. Young people, queer people, people of color, undocumented people and all other marginalized groups of people.” 

McPherson went on to say that the space was one where we should feel safe and feel loved. Her statements were met with cheers and again, another overwhelming feeling of love. Gavin also made a statement about the honor that was felt to be opening up for an artist who truly advocates for treating others with kindness.

As MUNA’s set ended and they exited the stage, the black curtain lifted to reveal a floral, pale pink curtain that completely obscured the view of the stage. The pink curtain was a direct image from Harry’s album cover and was also on one of the concert T-shirts being sold. 

At 9 p.m. the lights went off as Styles walked out onto stage and in front of the curtain. The first chords and “ooh’s” of “Ever Since New York” filled the venue, and my heart was actually beating so fast I thought it was going to literally exit my body and fly down the stairs and out the doors (it didn’t, thankfully). 

A single spotlight then illumined from behind the curtain as Styles’ silhouette was outlined. After a few tense moments of anticipation, the curtain dropped and the crowd literally went wild. It was all wonderfully dramatic — I was really living for it.

Styles was donning bright yellow flair bell bottoms and a black dress shirt that he wore previously at BBC’s "The One Show" earlier in the year. Upon the completion of “Ever Since New York,” he started on “Two Ghosts” (his next single!) and the lighting changed, and I was, for lack of a better word, shook. 

He sounded polished — it seriously sounded like the studio version for all the songs he performed. He started off by saying, “Hello, I’m Harry. Nice to see you all, thank you for coming.” This was met with lots of screaming. 

He continued with, “For the next hour or so, we’re here to entertain. But I’d also like to make sure you all know that tonight you can be whoever you want to be, love whoever you want to love.” 

There were transgender pride flags stuck into all the instruments, to which Styles waved around throughout the show. There were also a couple more rainbow pride flags that he would wrap around himself and run around the stage with — throwing into the audience at different moments.

Styles played the 10 songs on his album but also covered multiple more throughout the entire set. He sang “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” that he wrote for Ariana Grande to perform, as well as “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. 

And, to my surprise and delight, he sang “Story of My Life” and a reworked version of “What Makes You Beautiful.” 

He prefaced "Story of My Life” by saying, “Well it’s certainly nice to see you all again — I’m pretty sure I recognize some of you out there. Some of you may know the words to this next song, some of you may not. But sing along if you do.” 

What was so neat for me was that the show itself felt like a reunion of sorts. I have had the absolutely incredible opportunity to see One Direction perform in 2014 and 2015 and to see the maturity of the audiences advance through the years made me really proud. I felt like I was reuniting with this community that I’ve shared a lot with throughout the years, and to feel the sense of community again was really special.

If you’ve ever been to a One Direction show or watched videos of them performing, you would know that Harry is notorious for bopping around stage. His stage presence at his solo show wasn’t really any different. He was just so bouncy — it reminded me of a jumping bean or a tiny frog. During “Kiwi,” a particularly high-energy song, he would sprint back and forth across the stage, grabbing the hands of people standing closest to the stage. His audience interaction was unlike any I’ve seen from different artists. From continually asking if everyone was having a good time to blowing kisses, to waving, to throwing up peace signs to different sections of the venue, Styles was constantly engaged.

Between two of his songs, he stopped the show to speak to everyone again and said, “Now I’d like all of you to turn to someone close to you who you’ve never met before. I want you to introduce yourself, you know, say hello. Now I want you to hug them. Embrace! Now how did that feel? Do that more often. Hug a stranger. Spread love, especially here in Washington D.C. We need more of that in the world.” 

Just by doing this, the sense of community in the venue soared. I really felt like I could leave and always carry the love I felt in that moment in my heart. At the end of the show he reminded us to do the same again and to always remember, “Be kind to one another.”

During his song “Sign of the Times,” someone from the audience handed him the flag of Puerto Rico, which he held up. Dedicating his single to the country in need of help to which he reiterated his previous point of spreading love around the world. I left the venue that night feeling a renowned sense of calm and happiness.

If there’s one thing you’re going to get out of this article my hope is that you’ll spread more love and always be kind — the world needs it.

@beccafiely

arts@dailytarheel.com

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