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It’s been less than a year since his last trip to Toronto but it was noticeable that the city and his fans have missed him dearly. Now a year older at 24, he’s embarked on the second leg of his tour, visiting more countries and cities from across the globe and playing larger venues than before.
Last year, Styles visited Toronto for the first time as a solo artist when he played Massey Hall to a sold-out crowd of 2,700. This year, he dazzled the Air Canada Centre to a crowd of over 19,000 strong. Most people in attendance tonight haven't seen the rockstar since his last visit with One Direction back in 2015.
Due to technicalities at the United States-Canadian border, the show was running behind schedule. Styles took the stage a half an hour later than usual as they were still putting the stage together until the last possible minute.
Despite the hiccup and a slight cold, he still managed to look like a breath of fresh air. Seeing him dance across the stage, wearing a custom-made, light pink Gucci suit, adorned with black details was like watching a 1970s rockstar in his prime.
With only his debut album under his belt, he still managed to blow away the crowd. While also occasionally picking up the guitar, he performed his own 10 songs, plus a few covers and unreleased treasures along the way. Styles has proven that at any level he can still shine. Accompanied by his four-piece rock band of keyboardist/vocalist Clare Uchima, bassist/vocalist Adam Pendergast, drummer/vocalist Sarah Jones and guitarist/vocalist Mitch Rowland, he opened with the heavenly “Only Angel,” which felt like a religious experience. The night could only get better from there.
The 24-year-old played the same covers he did from his Massey Hall show last year, with the crowd screaming out all the lyrics to the Ariana Grande ballad he co-wrote, “Just A Little Bit of Your Heart” and the epic Fleetwood Mac song “The Chain.”
Of course, Styles could never forget his roots. He played his own versions of One Direction’s “Stockholm Syndrome” and “What Makes You Beautiful,” while having the audience scream the words back at a new octave. He also added unreleased songs “Medicine” and “Anna” to his setlist, which seemed to cause confusion amongst some of his fans but still had the entire arena moving.
He made his way towards the B-stage after the emotional “Meet Me in the Hallway,” touching any hands reaching to him along the way. The smaller stage offered a more intimate setting where he sang the beautifully simple “Sweet Creature” accompanied by Rowland. From there, he picked up his own guitar and did the fan favourite “If I Could Fly,” another One Direction song he wrote back in 2015.
Since it was his first of just two Canadian tour dates, he amped up his speeches to the stereotypical Canadian max. Not only asking if someone, anyone had a mini bottle of syrup that he could down but re-hashing his “list of reasons to love Canada” speech from One Direction’s Montreal show back in 2015. This list obviously included poutine, Michael Bublé, and his incredible Canadian fans.
“We’re going to sing one more song then we’re going to pretend we’ve left and then we’re gonna back and sing some more songs,” Styles said to introduce his debut single as a solo artist, “Sign of the Times.” Even more so in an arena, the epic rock ballad felt like home.
Styles has been known to make his shows feel like the safest places in the world. By waving pride flags onstage, to making speeches about the crowd having the best time of their lives; he has the simplistic ability to ensure everyone is comfortable no matter who they are and where they’ve come from.
“You only have one job and it’s to have the absolute best time of your life. Please feel free to be whoever you want to be.”
Regardless of your seat, the essence Styles exuded made every single person in the arena feel as if they were the only ones present. He has the ability to make those lucky enough to see him feel special. Every time you see him is like a sense that a tiny bit of history is being made.
Ending with the absolute rocker “Kiwi,” there was no way the crowd wanted the night to end. The aura was electric as everyone danced themselves silly to a song with lyrics that are equally as such. But it was the perfect way to end the night.
Playing theatres was the singer beginning his life on the road as a solo artist; a bit reserved but extremely grateful. Selling out arenas is a man completely in his element; loud, proud and humbled by it all.
It’s unclear when the singer will make his return to the stage after this tour is over. What is for sure, is that it will be with a new album after a long, well-deserved break from the spotlight.