On the narrow sidewalk, Harry Styles fans flowed in two directions. Half lined up west, backdropped by the chilly river at the edge of Brooklyn, while the rest faced east, sporting lanyard badges with Harry’s face on it. Soon, both queues converged to pack inside the tiny Music Hall of Williamsburg — capacity 650 — for an atypically intimate performance with a global pop superstar. Styles didn’t waste a single moment.
During a raucous five-song Secret Session for SiriusXM and Pandora, Styles ran through some of his biggest hits, strumming a cosmically painted guitar for “Watermelon Sugar” and sporting a fan-thrown pink sash for One Direction classic “What Makes You Beautiful.” The February 28 gig allowed fans a rare opportunity to be mere feet from a musical phenom whose summer tour will take him to 20,000-seat arenas like Madison Square Garden, The O2 in London, and more. Styles brought that maximalist energy to a much cozier set in a no-frills New York room.
Case in point: After fan near the stage implored Styles to say hi to her friend, with whom she was FaceTiming, he did, then he teased her for calling while at work. A few minutes later, another fan threw a watermelon-shaped hat onstage during “Watermelon Sugar.” When she asked for it back, Styles devilishly deflected. “You shouldn’t have thrown it onstage then!” he smirked. “Them’s the rules!” Then he tossed it back.
When Styles released his second album, Fine Line, in December, he celebrated by filling The Forum in Inglewood, California for a night of sadness, sexiness, and Stevie Nicks surprises. In Brooklyn, the scope was smaller but the mood was just as ebullient. Though he spent “Adore You” (dedicated to the magical fish in its music video) and “Lights Up” poised at the mic stand, the imp in him had escaped by the time he strapped on his acoustic and told a quick story about how he’d written it in Nashville in 2017.
Styles has long made his public persona that of a frilly rapscallion whose brow alone could uncork that bottle of Cabernet in your hand. Onstage in Brooklyn, the 25-year-old raconteur leaned all the way in for “What Makes You Beautiful” and scorching set closer “Kiwi. By the end, as he bounded around the stage and soaked a third of the crowd in boxed water, Styles even rocked a pearl necklace. A rainbow pride flag materialized, so he waved it. Guitars careened and fans exploded with cheer, so Styles screamed right back. Here he was, homecoming king Harry Styles in his his finest threads — a polka-dot vest under a white blouse with wide pinstriped blue trousers.
Ahead of the performance, Styles sat down with Ryan Sampson, Nicole Ryan, and Stanley T from SiriusXM’s The Morning Mash Up show for a quick interview, where he revealed more of his friendship with Lizzo and what went down recently when he was spotted at a Wawa gas station. “We go in, open the door, and Wawa’s playing ‘Night Changes,'” he said, “and there was like six girls in the back singing ‘Night Changes.’ I was like, maybe I’ll wait in the car!” After about 10 minutes, fans got antsy and threw some pretzels onstage. “It’s chaos in here!” Styles said, grinning. But the real chaos came during the performance, when he brought an arena-sized splendor to a small club rocking on a brisk night by the East River.
Before any sweat had dripped from the star’s ruffled sleeves, the neighborhood around the venue bustled with welcoming energy. A nearby boutique shop’s sandwich board boasted $30 scarves “for Harry lovers,” and a bar blasted “Carolina” just a block down from the venue. “Harry Styles?” a woman passing by the venue exclaimed upon seeing the marquee. “Like One Direction?” Her voice rose with each recognition. “Oh my god!” But her invocation of divinity didn’t quite have it right. Music Hall is so small that even the tall folks in the back could see our hero was fully human, beaming and holding eye contact and connecting on every level.
From a room that size, it’s easy to see that Harry Styles is one of us. But he’s better than nearly everyone else at making you forget that.