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Niall Horan - Nostalgic Pop and Silly Dancing, Live at Jiffy Lube

To say that Niall Horan has some of the most loyal fans in the world would be a tremendous understatement. The Irish musician took the stage at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Virginia on June 8 for his third album tour, The Show: Live on Tour. Horan deftly captivated the audience with his get-on-your-feet pop hits, beautifully sweet and simple acoustic ballads, his impressively powerful vocals, and somewhat dorky but also endearing dance moves.

Before the show starts, the main fixture on the stage is a huge, ruffled curtain hung in a circle, with googly eyes projected on it. They move back and forth, appearing to be watching the audience as they sing and dance along to the pre-show playlist, which features songs like Joan Jett’s ‘I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll,‘ Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain,‘ and Florence and the Machine’s ‘The Dog Days Are Over.‘

After openers Ryley Tate Wilson and Del Water Gap warm up the crowd, the lights drop abruptly around 8:45pm, with graphics reading, “Welcome to the Show, starring Niall Horan,” “One night only, enjoy!” playing across the curtain before it rises slowly to reveal Horan and his band standing among smoke and lights. Among deafening cheers, they kick off the night with ‘Nice To Meet Ya,‘ a high-energy, fast-paced song that sets the tone of the show perfectly. (A song I always like to say sounds like it belongs in the end credits of an Andrew Garfield-led Spider-Man movie.)

With every single song that passes, the crowd proves that Virginia is indeed for Lovers, what Horan’s fans call themselves (and what he affectionately calls them.) It is one of the loudest, most energetic, most passionate crowds I’ve ever experienced, and their impact on Horan is deep and undeniable. After the percussion-heavy, energetic dance number ‘Small Talk,‘ the quirky and ’80s pop reminiscent ‘On A Night Like Tonight,‘ and his famous pop track ‘On the Loose,‘ he sits down at a piano on the right of the stage amidst cheers so loud my ears immediately start ringing. He takes a moment to gaze upon what I can only imagine is a breathtaking sight of a vast sea of enthusiastic supporters. At a loss for words, he laughs, hands on his head, as if he can’t believe he’s here.

Amidst a deafening sea of cheering and screams, Horan thanks the rather enthusiastic audience for “absolutely ramming this place as packed as it possibly can get,“ and that this show is one of the biggest he will play this year. “Listen, apparently I’m big in Virginia!” He jokes, garnering laughter, applause, and more cheers from the lively crowd. 

While watching Horan command the stage and the attention of 25,000 people, I start thinking about how absolutely absurd it is to think that when he was a member of One Direction, he was considered one of the weaker performers of the group. In a live performance setting, Horan exudes more than just confidence; with every note he strums on his guitar, with every word he sings, with every catchy beat that he does a silly little dance to, it’s evident that he thrives onstage, completely comfortable in his own skin and his skills that he’s spent a lifetime perfecting. 

Despite being an overwhelmingly successful and globally loved musician, Horan oozes humility and grace. In fact, he can’t stop thanking the audience and staring at them in awe; it’s like he still can’t believe that all these people paid to see him. Put simply, he’s happy to be there, and he’s even happier that you’re there. 

Though most of the songs on the setlist are from Horan’s most recent album, The Show, he allows his first two albums, Flicker and Heartbreak Weather plenty of time to shine. Standouts are the sentimental and simple ballad ‘This Town,‘ the warm and nostalgic ‘Heartbreak Weather,‘ and the ’80s pop-evocative ‘If You Leave Me.‘

One of my favourite moments of the show takes place almost exactly in the middle. After ‘Save My Life,‘ an energetic and synth-filled track off his most recent album, Horan surprises the audience with ‘Night Changes,‘ a One Direction song, garnering loud screams and cheers from the audience. The singing of the crowd almost swallows Horan’s voice as he sings, “We’re only getting older, baby; And I’ve been thinking about it lately; does it ever drive you crazy just how fast the night changes?” The ten-year-old song clearly strikes the nostalgia chord for everyone in the ampitheater, transporting them back into their childhood or teen years. As he sings, Horan gazes at the vast crowd, his eyes sparkling with emotion and joy, singing a song that not only takes the audience back in time, but takes him back to his first ever band. The emotion in the room is more than palpable.

Horan takes a few minutes before the encore to read fans’ signs. He receives a Build-a-Bear from a fan, takes a selfie with another, thanks a fan from traveling all the way from Argentina for the show, and talks to a little girl holding a sign that reads, “Mr. Niall, will you marry me when I grow up?”

After the encore, Horan and his band close the show with ‘Heartbreak Weather‘ and ‘Slow Hands,‘ two tracks that are both high-energy and well-loved by his fans. During “Heartbreak Weather,” Horan runs all over the stage, dancing and having the time of his life singing to and with the audience. He sings, “All of my life, it’s been heartbreak weather; Thinking to myself, it won’t get better; It can be so lonely in this city,” and prompts the audience to scream back, “But it feels different when you’re with me.”

Before ‘Slow Hands,‘ Horan thanks the audience for their unwavering support over the last 14 years, even taking a moment to talk about how it’s difficult and expensive to get to a concert nowadays, thanking them specifically for choosing to spend their hard-earned money to see him. It’s in moments like this that Horan’s charm, his true humility and thoughtfulness shine through. This is why he’s so loved.

‘Slow Hands‘ is the perfect ending song. With the crowd screaming the words, Horan has fun with it, dancing in a somewhat dorky and overexaggerated manner to make people smile and laugh. He never takes himself too seriously, fostering a truly non-judgmental and safe show environment. The applause begins even before Horan sings the last “Yeah, I already know that there ain't no stoppin' your plans and those slow hands.” He waves to the crowd before the curtain goes back up and he and his band disappear.

With his most recent album and tour, Niall Horan proves once and for all, to anyone who doubts, that he is, and always has been, far more than ‘the blonde one.‘ (A few weeks after this show, he played two sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden.) The perfect picture of humility, Horan skillfully and wholly captivates his audience with his smooth vocals, boyish charisma, and an incredibly curated setlist that pays homage to every era of his career, from his boyband days to the present. Attending a Niall Horan concert feels like being surrounded by friends and family in the best way possible; the amphitheatre is tangibly full of so much love and loyalty that it notably impacted Horan and his performance. Niall Horan is far from being that one guy from One Direction. Especially with The Show, he has defined and perfected his sound and elevated his on-stage performance to that of a seasoned, skilled musician who has never let his fame go to his head and who is eternally and deeply grateful to every single person at his show.

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