Four simple words, "Treat people with kindness," were printed on T-shirts and other merchandise at the Harry Styles concert on Tuesday at the new Toyota Music Factory in Irving. The global pop star and former One Direction member toured through Texas in support of his first solo record after the boy band went on hiatus in late 2015.
The words carried more weight in a live setting, less than two weeks since the mass shooting during a Las Vegas music festival.
They aren't just part of Styles' promotional materials. His hit single, "Sign of the Times," is a piano ballad about the state of the world today, from the perspective of a dying mother talking to her newborn baby. It's a somber story coming from one of the biggest teen heartthrobs in history. Better yet, that lead track, which resembles the artistry and composition of a David Bowie song, has maintained a connection to his young, mostly-female fan base.
Oh yes, the fans: Their high-pitched squeals bounced off the concrete walls of the pavilion throughout the concert, hitting a new high when Styles performed his own rock versions of the two biggest One Direction songs: "Story of My Life" and "What Makes You Beautiful." Strong and confident, both songs made it clear Styles never needed a couple of guys singing harmony on either side of him. Thankfully, though, he didn't dwell on his massively successful past, instead opting to just sample the 1D catalog that helped him get to where he is today.
Styles grinned from ear to ear throughout his hour-plus set as he bounded across the stage and danced gleefully in patterned bellbottoms and a flowy shirt. His solo material is a far cry from the youthful, swooning pop ballads of his past. Most of his songs have a folk or rootsy feel reminiscent of the '70s, and his lyrics give the introspective artist a chance to show what's inside his head.
Proving he has more than one trick up his (billowy) sleeve, Styles channeled his melancholy persona in "Two Ghosts," an acoustic tune that resembles the same low, muted vocals of Ryan Adams.
Styles did offer some goofy interims that seemed to go on too long -- a sign that he focuses more on his set list than perfecting his onstage banter -- but those awkward moments revealed his imperfections. Though he's been in front of an audience all of his adult life, Styles is still coming into his own.
Just when audiences were quieting, Styles launched into "Kiwi," a cheeky, speaker-blaring stunner bursting with energy. Admitting this was his favorite song to perform, he strutted across the stage, wailing the rowdy lyrics with a sly smile. Styles' charisma, chameleon-like presence and delivery sold each song on Tuesday night.
Whether his spotlight will last longer than one solo album is something fans will have to decide, but if his closing performance of "Sign of the Times" has anything to do with it, this is the start of an adventure for the talented and former 1D fan favorite.