You could see the words half a mile down the road: HARRY STYLES FINE LINE, lit up and circling the roof of L.A.’s The Forum on Friday (December 13), where 17,000 fans and one golden boy were gearing up to celebrate the saddest, sexiest album of the year. Fans outfitted in fresh merch, paisley-patterned jumpsuits, and the obligatory banana costume filled the arena as a carefully curated pre-show playlist (Aretha Franklin, The Beatles, Bob Dylan) set the tone for the one-night-only album release show, held just hours after Harry Styles‘s second solo effort, Fine Line, arrived into the world.
When he emerged onstage on 9 p.m., Styles had on the same striking ensemble he wears on the new album’s cover art: a chest-baring hot pink blouse, high-waisted white trousers, and chunky black platforms. Video screens on either side of the stage stretched him to skyscraper-like length — letting us glimpse additional accents like his pearl necklace and blue nail polish — as he addressed the sold-out crowd for the first time.
“I’m baaack!” he exclaimed, right after kicking off the evening with the punchy Fine Line opener “Golden.” This night, he proclaimed, would be a special one, because “this will probably be the only time we’re going to play [the album] top to bottom, start to finish.” But before getting down to business, there was his now-infamous disclaimer. “We have one job tonight and that is to entertain you,” he reminded the crowd, adding that they should “please feel free to be whoever you want to be tonight.”
Styles and his band did, in fact, play Fine Line in its entirety, live-debuting nine new songs in total. He giggled while singing the “woo woo’s” and “doo doo’s” at the end of “Sunflower, Vol. 6,” turned the Forum stage into a Malibu camping ground for “Canyon Moon,” and praised his trusty guitarist Mitch Rowland for absolutely shredding that “She” solo. A surprise highlight were the two singers featured on “Treat People With Kindness,” who sang that feel-good hook while Styles danced around the stage and got the crowd all hyped up on altruism.
When it hit the “feeling sad” portion of the album, the one-two sucker punch of “Cherry” and “Falling” was even more affecting live, with Styles instructing fans to hold up their cell phone lights for the latter tearjerker. It was maybe the only time he’ll ever play that song to near-dead silence; maybe the audience hadn’t had time to memorize the words, or maybe they just wanted to quietly marvel at him hitting those acrobatic high notes. For the next song, though, Styles did seem amused by which lyrics fans already knew by heart — on “To Be So Lonely,” that was the memorable line, “I’m just an arrogant son of a bitch who can’t admit when he’s sorry.” Styles dryly quipped, “Why is it that when I called myself an arrogant son of a bitch, that’s when you sang the loudest? Of every line, you just decided to sing that with your whole chest?”
Even with his several chatty interludes, performing Fine Line only took Styles and Co. an hour; he himself noted that it “went a lot faster” than he’d anticipated. But he had a few tricks and a Nicks up his magenta sleeve, returning to the stage after a few shorts minutes for an electric five-song victory lap. Surprise guest Stevie Nicks strutted onstage to join her pal for a bewitching duet of “Landslide,” as they slow-danced and held hands with visible warmth. “I know. Cool, isn’t it?” Styles giddily admitted.
His rockier, revamped version of One Direction’s debut hit “What Makes You Beautiful” dialed up the nostalgia, and then, in a tribute to another classic-rock idol of his, Styles embraced the spirit of the season with Paul McCartney’s 1979 holiday oddity “Wonderful Christmastime.” A flurry of confetti snow fell on the audience as Styles exclaimed, “It snowed in California!” Bookending the encore were two fan-favorites from his 2017 debut: the eternal rocker “Kiwi,” which still manages to feel like a goddamn earthquake, closed the show, while the epic “Sign of the Times” was first. During the latter number, Styles fittingly changed the lyric “welcome to the final show” to “welcome to the very first show.”
That’s where the specialness of the night really sunk in: This was Styles’s first full-length concert of the Fine Line era; a stand-alone celebration before his official tour kicks off next April. And no one was in more of a celebratory mood than the man himself, who ended the party with a note of gratitude: “There is nothing that makes me more hopeful than standing in front of you. … This album is yours. I am yours.”