After six thunderous nights, the UK & Ireland leg of Harry Styles’ Love On Tour is over. With Sweden, Norway and Denmark next on the itinerary and the US to follow in August, Styles mania is set to continue and, according to Wembley Stadium’s James Taylor, the UK will be basking in the glow for some time yet.
Styles tweeted that the first of his two London shows was one of his favourites that he and his band have ever done, adding that he felt overwhelmed. Anyone who saw either night at Wembley would attest that most of the crowd felt the same way. Taylor, the venue’s senior commercial director, is still reeling.
“The shows have received unanimous positive feedback, Harry’s fans were probably the noisiest I’ve ever heard in the stadium,” he tells Music Week in the aftermath. “It was a great occasion, a really positive couple of nights. The first of many I would think…”
Indeed, Taylor suggested it won't be long before Styles is back in UK stadiums. But while the dust has settled and the screaming has stopped, the coloured feathers – which were floating in the air and sticking triumphantly to the floor around and inside Wembley last Sunday night – remain.
“I think we’re still cleaning those up,” smiles Taylor. “It's quite difficult, they kept appearing in the bowl ahead of Ed Sheeran’s show. It was a very colourful occasion and Harry has got his own unique style, which is reflected in the way the fans came together.”
Wembley – like Ibrox in Glasgow, the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium – was simply consumed by Styles and his fans. Having waited longer than they ever anticipated to see him thanks to the pandemic, his supporters conjured bedlam in each venue hours before he walked out on stage. Originally, he was supposed to play the O2 in London, now he has filled Wembley Stadium twice over.
Every last audience member sang every word of each song back at the singer, who pirouetted, jived and shimmied around a rectangular platform that stretched into the standing section. On night one, he wore red spots, on night two, silver, sparklier ones. Styles likes to see into the whites of his fans’ eyes, stopping to read their handmade signs and strike up conversations. On night two at Wembley, he led a chorus of happy birthday to his bass player Elin Sandberg and helped an Italian fan, Mattia, come out. There was also a dedication to dads, including his own, who was in the crowd, for fathers day. In Manchester, he shouted out his first primary school teacher, Mrs Vernon. Then there was the customary encouragement for fans to bestow acts of kindness at each gig. Everyone hugged the person to their right, because Harry said so.
Such moments illustrate the levels of positivity and love, for that’s what we must call it, that Styles is capable of evoking. At Wembley, as the crowd lost its mind to Bohemian Rhapsody before he came on, you got the impression that the experience of all being in the same place together might have been enough for the audience. When he did emerge, even the slightest brush of a hand or wiggle of a hip sent a shock wave around Wembley’s vast bowl. Even the night air was trembling. The emotion is vivid, palpable, it's hard to think of anyone else who inspires this level of feeling.
Harry and his fans have a shared belief about how you should live life
James Taylor, Wembley Stadium
Near the front, a fan in a cape fitted out with fairy lights with a wand in each hand caught the eye, casting huge shapes with every flick of the wrist. Scores of people at the back of the standing area twirled each other around, tearing across the floor like every song was the last number at a wedding. During the slow ones, such as Matilda from Harry’s House, they lay on the floor, scrunching up their rain-soaked ponchos, the kind you’d usually see at a theme park.
“I don’t get to do this without you,” Styles said at one point. “It would be me in a room on my own prancing about, a very different vibe. I am yours, thank you.”
And the magic of Harry Styles is that it really felt like he meant it. This stadium show had fireworks (during the set-stealing Sign Of The Times) but it didn’t really need them. The songs, plus their maker’s bond with his fans, provided ample explosion.
To find out what went on over two nights at Wembley and look ahead to Styles’ future playing stadiums, we asked James Taylor to take us behind the scenes…
Firstly, what was your immediate reaction to the two shows?
“It was really good, a great occasion. It was a very happy, warm atmosphere with people just sharing their combined love of the artist. They are very passionate, committed fans, very like-minded. He delivered a great show.”
Why do you think Harry Styles inspires such devotion in people?
“Harry’s messaging during the shows is all about loving yourself and I think for young people who struggle with mental health, you can tell that he connects well and gives a really positive message. I think that’s at the heart of the show, his songs are very positive about the self, not just other people. That’s why he connects well with fans, they’ve got a shared belief of how you should live life. It’s very positive and uplifting and people just like that sort of environment.”
What made the show work in a stadium?
“He does a lot of crowd interaction, a bit more than other artists. He chats to his fans and he is known for stopping his shows and talking to them. Bear in mind it’s his first stadium show, so some artists, if it’s your fourth or fifth time, you might need to do something a bit different or it becomes a bit samey. But with his first one, it sold out so quickly that I don’t think he really needed to go too mad on that. People were coming to see him. You might see on his third, fourth or fifth tour, he might start doing [something different], but for now, he’s got a group of fans that just wanted to see him in stadiums for the first time. I don’t think it really needed anything else, I thought his team got it just right.”
Can you tell us about the process of putting the shows together?
“His team were very positive and very happy. I went down after the shows and spoke to the promoter [Live Nation] and everyone in the changing room area was absolutely delighted. Harry had a little afterparty with his team and they were all very happy. I don't think it could have gone any better from his perspective, you can tell it meant a lot. I could hear his party but I didn’t pop in! [Laughs].”
After the postponement and venue upgrades, Love On Tour in the UK has been a very big deal for a number of reasons. What’s it been like to be a part of it?
“It was meant to be at The O2, but demand was so high that it made sense that he went straight into the stadiums. I don’t think it will be his last one, it wouldn't surprise me if he was back in stadiums pretty soon. He’s going to go into that Ed Sheeran and Coldplay level, they’re both due to do their 12th shows this year at Wembley and I can see Harry on his third or fourth tour being up on that level. There’s definitely more to come from him, his show will get better and better. If he’s that good on his first stadium show, you look forward to seeing his second and his third…”
Do you feel you’ve played your part in all the recent success, with Harry’s House and As It Was both topping the charts?
“It feels like he’s on the cusp of something huge, well, he already is [huge]. Obviously he’s had his history with the stadium before and has played with One Direction, but as a solo artist you do feel like this is the start… Ed Sheeran [first played] Wembley in 2015, and you do feel Harry is going to go on and do similar numbers. He’s developed his own brand, his own style, you don’t see a lot of artists manage to do that. A lot of them don’t seem to reach the level of connection with the fans that he has. It’s exciting to see where he’s going to go.”
Read our review of Harry's House here, and read our 2019 cover interview here.
PHOTOS: Anthony Pham