Harry Styles is ‘Golden’ during Austin residency

Styles’ six Austin shows excite and empower


Sophie Leung-Lieu

Harry Styles wears a burnt orange outfit, the school color of The University of Texas, on the first night of his residency in Austin.

Ingrid Smith, co-news editor and co-online managing editor

When Harry Styles announced that he would be playing five shows in Austin at the newly-minted Moody Center, Austin’s teen subculture exploded in excitement. Waiting lists for tickets were instantly miles long, and, due to overwhelming demand, Styles extended his Austin residency to six days. When Sept. 25 hit and Austin became “Harry’s House” for the week, McCallum High School became a Harry Styles fan club. The morning announcements began with a snippet of “As It Was,” his name echoed through the hallways and my earbuds played “Golden” on repeat. While I had to wait until day four, Sept. 29, to see Styles in the flesh, as the “Love on Tour” merch in the hallways began to multiply, my excitement only grew.

Our job tonight is going to be to entertain you. I challenge you to have as much fun as I’m going to have.

— Harry Styles as the show opened

I showed up to the concert in my sparkliest shirt that I knew Styles would approve of and marched down the trail of feather boa remnants from the previous shows leading to the arena. As I entered Moody Center, I was taken aback by the sense of community I felt within the pack of smiling fans. Styles’ signature message to “Treat People With Kindness” was upheld by everyone I interacted with. Plus, loads of pants with “I love HS” written on the backside, light-up cowboy hats and men dressed as Styles’ album covers made the show’s environment unlike any other. In a moment of excitement, I indulged in a $20 mocktail served in a souvenir cup called “Pink Daydream” and took my seat.

Messages to end gun violence and register to vote flashed across the jumbotron as the sold-out show’s crowd of 15,000 people filled the arena. A throwback pop playlist including old One Direction hits built up anticipation. Eventually, the opening act Gabriels took the stage and entranced the crowd with a 30-minute set of soulful singing and jazzy swagger. 

As the time for Styles to take the stage inched closer, the One Direction hit “Best Song Ever” played over the speakers and the crowd screamed every word. Fans waved around signs with messages like “Sunflower, Vol. 6 cured my depression” and “I sold my horse to come here.” 

Styles’ pink jumpsuit-wearing band ran onto the stage and began playing “Daydreaming.” As the crowd’s screams grew louder, Styles emerged from the darkness in a yellow and blue chevron outfit and jumped around the stage in a burst of excitement, shouting “Austin, Austin, Austin!” 

“Our job tonight is going to be to entertain you,” Styles said to a crowd that was certainly entertained. “I challenge you to have as much fun as I’m going to have.”

With the way Styles’ neon yellow sneakers grooved and fist pumped, I wondered if he somehow had that challenge won. I became convinced that there wasn’t a bad seat in the house when Styles pointed out a baby in a high-up row of the arena and theorized that it would be asleep by the end of the show. But I wouldn’t be surprised if that night, the baby became a Harry Styles fan for life.

Harry Styles raises his hands during a song on Sept. 29, the fourth day of Love on Tour in Austin. (Ingrid Smith)

Strapping on a guitar, Styles began singing “Golden,” feeding off the energy of his powerhouse band. Styles’ drummer Sarah Hyland was clearly a fan favorite, and percussionist Pauli Lovejoy seemed to be the crowd’s personal hype man. But Styles dominated the stage with unwavering vocals and dance moves so charmingly real that many of us have attempted the very same in front of a bathroom mirror. 

After serenading the crowd with radio hits from his sophomore album, Styles decided to exchange smiles for sobs. “Matilda,” he said, is very special to him and he hopes it can be special to his fans too. Phone lights danced around the arena like stars as Styles sang about recognizing when your hurt isn’t normal and learning to ask for help. As I glanced around, I saw hundreds of lips mouthing every somber word, and I knew how much the song moved people. 

But Styles drove the crowd back to equilibrium with a witty mid-show monologue. He took a moment to wish a couple luck on their upcoming wedding day and took a stroll around the stage, viewing the bunches of signs encircling the arena. Styles read aloud one sign that said “This is my divorce party (from a toxic man)” and the crowd whooped. 

“We don’t want no toxic men here,” Styles said.

He spun around the catwalk in “Satellite” and mused about the importance of respect in “Treat People With Kindness” as he ran PRIDE flags across the stage. As Styles belted out a solo version of the One Direction hit “What Makes You Beautiful,” nostalgia struck and the crowd went wild. A pink feather boa-rimmed cowboy hat frisbeed through the air and Styles caught it, placing it on his head as he leaned into the bridge of “Music For a Sushi Restaurant.” For the millionth time, the crowd went crazy. He finished the set with a soulful rendition of “Love of My Life,” leaving the crowd wishing the moment would never end.

Now, I can’t be here in Texas without reminding you to please go out there, be kind to each other. Please remember, do not let a single person tell you what you can and cannot do with your body. It is yours.

— Harry Styles to HSLOT Austin crowd

After five minutes of screaming that would break any football game noise meter, Styles returned for an encore. Styles called back to his first album with “Sign of the Times” and celebrated his newest era with “As it Was,” a single from “Harry’s House.” In “Kiwi,” the night’s final number, Styles exchanged disco-pop for vintage rock. He put his whole body into the music and made every last moment count.

Styles ended the show with an abundance of air kisses and “thank you’s.” He used his last minutes in the spotlight to spread a message.

“Now, I can’t be here in Texas without reminding you to please go out there, and be kind to each other,” Styles said. “Please remember, do not let a single person tell you what you can and cannot do with your body. It is yours.”

Moody Center donated $100,000 to Everytown, an organization committed to ending gun violence, in honor of the 100,000 people in attendance. As Styles continues the North American leg of Love on Tour, I’m glad to know that one of the most popular musicians of our time is using his platform to educate his millions of fans, encourage the world to treat people with kindness and, above all, put on an unforgettable show. I hung my Love on Tour poster on my bedroom wall with pride. Love on Tour in Austin set the standard in my mind for what a concert should be: fun, freeing and full of feather boas. Now that Styles made Austin “Harry’s House” for six days, the live music capital of the world will never be the same “As It Was.”