Review: Harry Styles good as golden at Little Caesars Arena

Performer's concert at Little Caesars Arena Monday night was worthy of the screams it generated.

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Harry Styles brought fun, energy, style, playfulness, charisma and showmanship to Little Caesars Arena on Monday, playing an exuberant 90-minute concert for a sold-out, masked-up and packed-to-the-rafters crowd of more than 18,000 screaming fanatics. 

Styles strutted across the in-the-round stage, situated at the center of the arena, over the course of 17 songs, somehow managing to barely break a sweat. Backed by a tightly laced six-piece band — three male players, three female — Styles displayed depth as a performer and an entertainer, and he made it all look as easy as flipping a switch. 

Harry Styles performs at Little Caesars Arena on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

The 27-year-old ex-One Directioner moves like Jagger, always shaking, shimmying and pumping his fists, with an animated smile never far from display. He was cool, in control and in the moment, ad-libbing through "Watermelon Sugar" to sing about an audience member dressed in a banana costume and dedicating a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to a fan with a sign saying it was her 16th birthday.

It was that sense of spontaneity that kept the show lively, and that give-and-take with the crowd is the special sauce in the Styles experience. Fans tossed everything from feather boas to cowboy hats to sunflowers to eyeglasses on stage, and Styles — who was never fazed, even when doused with a flying drink — would frequently catch them mid-air or, in the case of a Pride flag thrown on stage, clutch it and hold it up to the crowd like a crest, brandishing it while dashing across the stage.

Fans also waved homemade signs that ranged from the confessional ("I sold feet pics to be here tonight" read one in the front row) to the intriguing ("Harry be my girlfriend") to the desperate ("Adopt us!") to the strangely violent ("HIT ME WITH YOUR TOUR BUS"). "I'm going to politely decline," he responded to the tour bus request, with typical humor and grace. "You seem like a nice person."

Pulling from his two solo albums, 2019's "Fine Line" and 2017's self-titled set, Styles mixed shimmering rockers (opener "Golden") with folksy singalongs ("Cherry"), torch songs ("Fine Line") and epic ballads ("Sign of the Times"). The mix of genres suited him well, and he seems comfortable playing with and stretching his sound, without straying too far from the lovable, bubbly, pure pop sound that put him and One Direction on the map in the first place. That was evidenced by a late-show run-through of the 1D smash "What Makes You Beautiful," which fit in neatly with the rest of the set. 

Dressed in a pair of sparkly blue bellbottom pants, a red button-up and suspenders, Styles had the crowd jumping from the moment he hit the stage at just after 9 p.m. At one point he joked about the in-the-round set-up allowing fans equal views of his face and his "bottom," while in a late-show speech, Styles acknowledged the pandemic and the hardships everyone has endured over the last 18 months. He asked the crowd to remember that time, not too long ago, when there were no concerts at all, and he thanked the crowd for the extra steps it had to take in order to attend the show.  

Audience members were required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry, and were required to wear masks for the duration of the concert. When a recorded message from Styles played over the P.A. system prior to the performance, he thanked the crowd for getting vaccinated, prompting a roar of applause from the young, overwhelmingly female crowd. 

It was one of many such roars throughout the night. Even before Styles hit the stage, the crowd turned warm-up songs such as Olivia Rodrigo's "good 4 u" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" into full-on singalongs, though the biggest pre-show pop was reserved for One Direction's "Olivia."

Indie rocker and former Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis opened the show with a 45-minute set of melancholic California pop songs, filtered through equal parts Fleetwood Mac and Kacey Musgraves.