Harry Styles: Live On Tour // Manchester 2017

There aren't many people who I would spend eight hours sitting on the cold, damp streets of Manchester for, well, Harry Styles is probably the only person in the world who I would do that for. The majority of my Wednesday 1st November was spent sitting in a queue outside the O2 Apollo in Manchester, longing for 7pm when the doors open and I could prepare to see my favourite person in the world...and it was worth every second.
After counting down for what felt like an eternity and a half, the day of my Harry Styles concert arrived. Naturally, I wanted to be as close to him as possible and so arrived at the venue early, decked in Harry merchandise, with the hope of securing a good spot in the crowd.

We ended up nine rows from the stage but not before shivering on the streets along with hundreds of fellow Harry fans for hours on end. But, despite the cold, the hunger, the exhaustion and the boredom, the time passed by faster than I had anticipated and, also, it was enjoyable.
Being surrounded by hundreds of people with whom I shared a common ground and was able to connect with filled me with such happiness and, although it was cold, the atmosphere was very warm. Everyone was caring and there was real positivity in the air because we all had the same aim. I was surrounded by such strong, lovely young people and felt empowered and content in their presence. Not only will I remember the actual concert forever, but I shall also cherish the build up and the day I spent on that street, teeth chattering and ankles ready to drop off. It was magical and made me fall in love with being a fan all over again. It also reminded me that young women who are dedicated fans of pop music, One Direction fans in particular, are some of the best people you will ever meet.

Additionally, the staff and security at the venue must be praised. They worked long hours but never stopped smiling and always took time to make sure we were okay. They talked to us, looked after us and ensured everyone was safe. In spite of everything going on in the world at the moment, there are nice people out there.

When 7pm came, doors opened and chaos ensued. It was every man for themselves as fans hurried into the pit. Once we were in, there was no escaping as to say we were squashed in like sardines would be an understatement. It got very hot, very quickly. I counted nine people who fainted. I was dripping in sweat, struggled to breathe a few times and barely had enough room to cough. But I didn't care. We were all in the same sweaty boat and it was all going to be worth it.

MUNA, three piece American electronic pop band, came on stage at 8pm and I couldn't wait to see them after falling in love with them after hearing them announced as Harry's support act earlier this year. Their set was phenomenal and they truly hyped up the crowd, (not that we needed much hyping) and really did fill the air with love. Not only did they sound flawless and look great, they gave inspiring speeches in which they commended us for attending the show in today's scary world and told us how beautiful all the marginalised communities, (queer, people of colour, immigrants and young women) looked. They praised Harry, too, for having them on tour with him and praised us for supporting a man whose main mission is to "treat people with kindness."
A special moment, in particular, for me, was MUNA performing their song I Know A Place at the end of their set, a song which is about acceptance and creating a safe space for all. It was a magical moment and one I shall cherish forever.

Then, at 9pm, it was time for the main event. In the most dramatic entrance I've ever witnessed, (because we all know Harry Styles is a narcissist) a guitar-holding Harry Styles appeared on a makeshift, pink, floral curtain in silhouette form. He stood there for a while, as the lyrics "Tell me something I don't already know," were repeated. After what felt like a lifetime, the curtain fell, the venue erupted into ear-splitting screams, the crowd shoved forwards, phones appeared in the air and Harry opened what was to be an incredible show with Ever Since New York.
I was captivated from the beginning, just fully besotted with the moment that I was living in and also pinching myself at the fact that the biggest love of my life was just a few feet away from me. It was surreal, to say the least.

The atmosphere throughout the whole night was unlike anything else in the world and it would be impossible for me to explain the energy in that room. It's just something you need to feel for yourself. The crowd were beyond loud and sang every word at the top of their voices which, as it always does at concerts, filled my heart up to the top until it was fit to burst. I got goosebumps on multiple occasions at the sheer volume of the audience and just how powerful 3,500 fans singing along to those songs was. A stand out moment was when Harry sang Sweet Creature and let fans sing the final line, "You bring me home" at the top of their lungs. Because, that night, we were home. And Harry brought us there.
Not only did it mean a lot for me to be in that room on Wednesday night, but it meant just as much to Harry. With him being from the North and, therefore, considering Manchester his 'home' gig, he was glowing and even that is an understatement. He smiled constantly, he laughed, he joked around, he was just truly overjoyed to be sharing that night with us and to be back where he grew up. For me to be in a place which means a lot to someone who means a lot to me was priceless.
Harry gets a lot of bad press. Every day, so-called journalists are slandering him and making him out to be someone he isn't. I wish all of those journalists who've ever treated him badly could have been at that concert. I wish they could've seen how pure he is, how kind he is and how much he cares about people. I wish they could've seen that Harry Styles in reality is far different from the Harry Styles they wish to portray him as. I couldn't tell you how many times he blew kisses to the crowd, said 'I love you' or 'Thank you.' He was grateful for every person's attendance in that room and to have a platform where he could do what he loves. On stage, Harry is free, not tied down by his media image or being who people expect him to be. On stage, he's just Harry. He's the freest, most authentic version of himself and it's a marvellous thing to bare witness to. Seeing someone who you admire and who you wish you could give the universe to, just absolutely loving life and not having to worry about a thing would fill anyone with purpose.

But it wasn't just Harry feeling happy and free in the O2 Apollo that night. It was me, also. He told us to "Do whatever makes us happy" and to "Be whoever we wanted to be in this room," and that was exactly what I did. For that 1 hour 30 minutes, I didn't have a name, I wasn't a person in the real world, no one was looking at me, no one cared what I looked like, how I identify, how old I am or what I'm doing with me life. I was just one of 3,500 people falling in love with the music the man I love was playing before me. I was just in that moment. Fully and completely. I felt truly able to be myself without a single care and that was all thanks to Harry. And not only did he create a space for me to be me, he created a space where I could be me safely. He spoke to us about how it takes a lot of courage to come to shows today, which it does, what with everything going on out there, but I can honestly say that, that night, I have never felt safer. Never in my life. I have never felt safe, more loved, more appreciated, more understood or more accepted for who I am. It was as if I was in a vacuum because environments that warm and safe don't seem to exist in the world. On 1st November, the person who brings light into my life every day and makes existing a lot easier, gave me something which I could never repay him for. A true feeling of belonging. A real sense of home. He provided me with emotions I didn't know existed and just a real sense of feeling like I fitted in but, at the same time, feeling like I didn't need to fit in at all. The ambiance in that room was pure magic and if I could bottle it and keep it by my bedside forever, I would. I will never be able to fully express how much it meant for me to be at that show or how much I loved every second of it. I will never be able to express my gratitude properly to Harry, nor will I be able to tell him how proud I am of him, but that's okay. Because that experience can just live on in my heart.

Not only was I proud of Harry, that night, but I was proud of everyone in that venue. With the majority of us being young women and with the world having a lot of bad things to say and do to young women, it was empowering to see everyone come together. It inspired me to be in a room filled with strong women who refused to live in fear and were so determined to enjoy themselves. Young women, One Direction fans in particular, are judged daily for who they are and for what they like, but on 1st November, no one gave a toss. No one was bothered about the rubbish people think and say about them, nor were they thinking about the struggles they face daily. All that mattered was the music and how it made them feel. There was such a strong sense of unity in the Apollo. Everyone, as Harry said, was "all in this together."

Harry's stage presence is just something else. I may be biased but I'm sure others would agree when I say he is the most exciting and, one of the best, performers of this generation. I don't know how he does it or where he learnt to be the way he is, but everything about him is remarkable. He radiates, not only beauty and charm, but talent too. His ability to command a crowd and wrap everyone in it around his little finger is incredible to watch.
He left no area of the crowd alone, constantly asking if people were okay and having a nice time. (stupid question, I know) and interacted with fans towards the front, making conversation. He joked about football teams, talked about the school he went to and asked people where they are from. He made a real effort to connect with us and proved how much he cares about the people who have given him the life he has today. He was funny, (his humour is highly under appreciated and I think he deserves his own stand up comedy show) and had everyone smiling from ear to ear with every word he said.
He is a real performer. A rockstar. An icon. A legend. He was all over the place, truly, it was wild, and he was rocking out, releasing all his inhibitions and creating such an incredible energy in the room. But, even with all his dancing and larking around, his vocals didn't slip. He remained on point at all times, especially during the slow tempo songs where he really got into the zone and hit me with all kinds of emotions.

I must praise his band because, sadly, in music, you don't always get the recognition you deserve unless you're at the front, singing. Adam Prendergast and Mitch Rowland played guitar, Sarah Jones played the drums and Clare Uchima was on keys, all of whom also provided backing vocals. They truly are a talented bunch and the show wouldn't have been what it was had they not been there. Sarah in particular, I have a soft spot for, nailed every beat of the drums. I don't know about anyone else, but I felt inspired by Sarah and Clare's presence in that room. Women in music don't get the attention they deserve so I am very thankful that Harry has given two very talented ladies a platform on which they can share their talents with the world.

Now, onto highlights of the night. Well, the whole thing was one big highlight in my eyes, but there were a few moments which really stood out. One of them being when Harry covered Ariana Grande's Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart, a song he wrote for her album a few years ago. Harry said himself how playing this song felt different tonight, what with it being in Manchester and with what happened earlier this year. He was right. It was emotional and was a performance which will stay with me, especially as, at this time, many fans held up signs of the Manchester Bee to show strength and togetherness. It was a stunning moment.

Harry performed some One Direction songs too, Stockholm Syndrome and What Makes You Beautiful, both of which received insane reactions from the crowd and had everyone jumping like crazy. Straight after What Makes You Beautiful, Harry went into Kiwi, aka the big rock song on his album which everyone and their dog is obsessed with, so much so that he played it twice without warning. Literally. We barely got chance to breathe. Those ten minutes were the wildest ten minutes of my life and, I'll be honest, they were a bit blurry, but it felt amazing. Oh, Harry fell over, too and knocked a light off stage, which was probably self inflicted after him spraying the stage with water, and it was hilarious/adorable. That was followed by chants of "YOU FELL OVER!" from a crowd of clearly loving and supporting fans.

A final highlight was the closing song - Sign Of The Times. I didn't do anything for the six minutes Harry was singing it other than stare at him, sing along and cry. I was just hit with a wave of emotions and such a strong, "Wow, I'm really here, in this moment." The lyrics of the song are emotional and relate to the state of the world currently, making it even more heartbreaking, but I just burst into tears over the fact that I was alive and I was witnessing something magical. The crowd during Sign Of The Times were especially loud, which really filled me with purpose and caused me to leave the concert feeling able to conquer anything.

After leaving concerts, I always feel like they were the best days of my life, but this one was. Truly. I have never felt the way I did that night and I wish I could relive it all over again...although, at the same time, I don't want to relive it, because it was a one-off thing, an experience which can't be re-created, and the fact that it will only happen once makes it more treasurable.
After being a One Direction fan for almost half of my life and relying on Harry to bring me happiness each day since 2010, seeing him live like that means more to me than anyone could understand. He is my favourite person in the world, even if he does take all of my money, and I feel blessed to have been part of that show and to have shared an evening with him. Thousands of people would've given limbs to be where I was on 1st November and I feel honoured to say I got to witness the things that I did. It will probably never sink in that I was even there, but I'll remember that night until the day I die because it was more than just a concert, it was a reminder that I matter and I have purpose.

I got to witness a beautiful, Gucci suit wearing, pride flag waving Harry Styles doing what he loves for people who love him for over an hour and I cannot comprehend that he was in front of me. I have fallen in love with him all over again, in love with his music, his vocals and his ability to make everyone feel important, regardless of age, gender, religion, appearance, skin colour or sexuality. Not many people can create what Harry manifested in the O2 Apollo that November night, but that's what makes him so special. He's one of a kind.

Oh, my Dad attended the show with me too. He loved it. Harry Styles concerts are for everyone, whether you're a teenage girl, or a Dad.

Love, Emily :) xx

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