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The British heartthrob had 17,000-plus fans in a celebratory mood at his sold-out show on Tuesday

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Detroit — It was a night of celebration and inclusion as Harry Styles delivered a buoyant, high energy rock 'n' roll concert to a sold-out crowd of more than 17,000 screaming, adoring fans at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday night.   

The 24-year-old British heartthrob led his four-piece band through a lively 17-song, 100-minute show that focused on his 2017 self-titled debut album but also touched on his One Direction past and covers of songs by Ariana Grande (the Styles-penned "Just a Little Bit of Your Heart") and Fleetwood Mac ("The Chain").

Styles, who debuted in One Direction when he was 16, clearly learned how to work and move a crowd during his 1D days. But his stage presence Tuesday was broader and more primal than it was in his boy-band past, and he exuded a swaggy charisma reminiscent of a British rock god 50 years his elder: Mick Jagger.

The classic rock comparison befits Styles, whose debut album forgoes club music trends of the day and harkens back to a '70s-style singer-songwriter, er, style, if you forgive the pun. The album was released 13 months ago, giving it time to sink in before Tuesday's performance, part of a North American tour that wraps up next month.       

In a blue, flowing top and wide-legged white pants, Styles hit the stage to the sound of piercing screams from the crowd, which was easily 95 percent to 97 percent female. Less than a minute in, however, a technical glitch halted the show: the video screens went dark and the music fell silent. Styles looked around at his bandmates, turned up his hands and walked off stage as his band followed. House music came up and several minutes of confusion set in. When Styles and crew re-emerged, they forged forward as if nothing had happened, smoothing over the speed bump without ever acknowledging it, and didn't break stride the rest of the show. Crisis averted, and soon forgotten.  

During swinging opener "Only Angel," Styles spread his arms wide and invited cheers from the crowd. Not that he needed to: his loyal fans were at piercing levels throughout the performance, rarely letting up for air. Roses were regularly tossed in Styles' direction, piling up at his feet. Many fans brought homemade signs; highlights included "It's my birthday... in 229 days," "sign my scars" and "I'm 82 and I love you."   

Groups of fans locked arms and swayed together in unison, some bellowing the lyrics together during group hugs. It was a communal experience, and one open to all: many held up Black Lives Matter signs during Styles' touchstone ballad "Sign of the Times," while pride flags waved freely throughout the night. Styles even brandished a pride flag during his Nashville makeover of One Direction's first hit, "What Makes You Beautiful," and he encouraged fans to "please feel free to be whoever you want to be in this room tonight" early in the show.         

Styles' circular production and open backdrop allowed for fans to be positioned on all sides of the stage, and he made his way to a B-stage in the back of the arena for a pair of ballads, "Sweet Creature" and the One Direction song "If I Could Fly." There, he made eye contact with a fan in the audience wearing a neck brace, and wished her "happy recovery!" That caused her to laugh and physically react, leading Styles to fret, "stop bending backwards!" 

While on the mic riffing freely with crowd members, he revealed himself to be a charismatic chap and a quick wit; he also interacted with a couple in the crowd who was expecting a baby, wishing them luck on their "potential boy or girl, whatever it decides." Having the stage presence to fill an arena is not easy, and it's even tougher when it's just a performer and a microphone. But Styles was engaging and easygoing on the mic. a naturally gifted host. And when he thanked the crowd for their support, he came across gracious and sincere. 

"Kiwi," with its T. Rex-like stomp, closed out his set's three-song encore, and found Styles bouncing around the stage like he didn't want to leave. As the most famous, most magnetic boy band member of his generation, Styles could have coasted in and out of Tuesday's performance on his past reputation alone. But he showed a drive, determination and skill set that showed his future is just as bright as his past.

Country star Kacey Musgraves, who watched from the crowd during part of Styles' set, opened the evening with a laid back set of Nashville pop. "Can I get a yee-haw?" Musgraves asked during a country-western flavored take on Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," while a studded saddle spun like a disco ball during "Space Cowboy" and she led the crowd in a sing-along during "Follow Your Arrow," an anthem of individuality that kicked off the evening's vibes of love and positivity.  

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama  

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