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Sundays, for the most part, are days of relaxation. They are to be spent hungover watching Carry On films on the sofa, where the most exciting and spontaneous thing one is likely to do is make a last-minute decision to go to a car boot sale. And yet, somehow, last night I found myself in Wembley among 90,000 screaming teenagers watching Harry Styles.
It happened like this: the night before, I was out at a friend’s 30th birthday when another friend, Alice, text me to say some more tickets had been released to Styles’ sell-out Love On Tour show the next day – should we buy tickets?
“Why not?” I messaged back after several cans of San Miguel. Anyway, I thought, the chances to get tickets were so low, Styles is a phenomenon after all and when the tour initially went on sale back in February it sold out just as quickly as it takes to click a link and wait for the page to load.
When I woke the next morning, it took a while for me to piece the previous night together when it hit me: did I agree to go to a Harry Styles concert? Yes I did, and doors opened at 4pm.
This is by no means a normal thing for me. I am far more likely to be listening to Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. The last concert I went to was Benjamin Clementine and before that it was Fleet Foxes. I’m also far from the average Harry Styles fan, which, from as far as I could work out is 15–18-year-old young women accompanied by mostly reluctant (but doting) fathers and (seemingly) very happy mothers.
And I’ll admit it, I loved every moment. I might be a convert.
I’m not a fan of Styles’s music, although it’s enjoyable enough – especially “As It Was” – but I’ve always been drawn to him. He is a fascinating cultural character, and if I could swap lives with anyone it would probably be him. Not only is he currently selling out stadiums around the world, but he’s also recently starred in two movies due to come out later this year. He’s basically this generation’s Frank Sinatra or Elvis – culturally-speaking at least.
My usual social bubble consists of discussing long-dead writers and niche books; it consists of the cost-of-living crisis and Ukraine and fearful headlines. To spend two hours in what must have been one of the happiest places on earth at that moment was simply wonderful.
Two rows in front of me there was another man. He must have been in his late 40s and had a shaved head and faded tattoos on his muscular arms. I don’t wish to stereotype but he wouldn’t have looked out of place with a plastic pint glass on the terraces of some football game or another. But there he was, pink feather boa around his neck with his two children – a boy and girl of around seven and eight – and quite frankly it was the sweetest thing, especially on Father’s Day.
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Then, about halfway through the show, Styles spotted a sign in the crowd asking for Harry’s help coming out. Styles took the sign (and a Pride flag) and asked the audience to help. “When the flag rises above my head, this man is officially out,” he said. “I think this is how it works.” Then he led the audience in cheering as Styles eventually raised the flag above his head after teasing and teasing... and when the flag was raised in the air, everyone in the crowd cheered.
All the many crises we face were forgotten. For two hours this new bubble I visited was a happy one. Styles’s enjoyment of being on stage in front of an audience was obvious, he was supremely confident, and man is he a cool guy... I’m not going to be turning up to any of his concerts in a boa and cowboy hat and heart-shaped glasses anytime soon like his most loyal fans. But I did have the feeling I was watching an important event.
It’s very easy to be snobbish about these things. No, Styles is not Mick Jagger, but ignore someone as culturally relevant as Styles at your peril. He’s on the forefront of fashion (the first man to appear solo on the front of Vogue), music – and now film.
He is an icon to an entire generation already. And while his message of “treat people with kindness” may seem insipid to some, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.