Harry of all styles, mas­ter of none

The Mail on Sunday - Event - - THEATRE EVENT - TIM DE LISLE

Back in April, Harry Styles was on course to be a su­per­star. His first solo sin­gle had gone straight in at No 1. It was a de­par­ture from his work with One Di­rec­tion: com­par­isons were drawn with El­ton John, even David Bowie. His al­bum was a sure-fire hit, and he was about to make his fea­ture-film de­but in Christo­pher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

Which just goes to show that six months is a long time in pop cul­ture. The fol­low-up sin­gles have flopped, the al­bum was last seen at No 73, and Dunkirk proved to be all set pieces and no proper story. Start­ing his first solo tour, Styles needs to turn the ship around.

He still has the fans on his side. The Apollo, heav­ing with hor­mones, of­fers a glimpse of what Beatle­ma­nia might have been like if the mo­bile phone had ar­rived 50 years ear­lier. The air is thick with pierc­ing screams and glow­ing screens.

At 23, Styles has some of what it takes to be a star – the baby face, the glossy hair, the cheeky grin, the de­cent voice. But go­ing solo throws a spot­light on what he doesn’t have: the phys­i­cal pres­ence, or the mu­si­cal per­son­al­ity.

His sparkly gold suit can’t hide the fact that his move­ments are wooden. And his al­bum, en­ti­tled Harry Styles, should re­ally be called Other Peo­ple’s Styles. There are tunes that bor­row from El­ton (in Ben­nie And The

Jets mode), Rob­bie Wil­liams and Kasabian. It’s a re­lief when the band launch into Fleet­wood Mac’s

The Chain: although the silky magic of the orig­i­nal goes miss­ing, it is at least a clas­sic song, not a cheap knock-off.

Even the pat­ter is apt to be sec­ond­hand. ‘ My job for the next hour and a half is to en­ter­tain you,’ Styles tells the crowd. ‘Your job is to do what­ever you want.’ The for­mula is nag­gingly fa­mil­iar, but I can’t place it, so I search the notes on my phone – and there it is, ut­tered by Ed Sheeran on this very stage in 2012.

There are a cou­ple of re­deem­ing mo­ments: a stompy re­vamp of One Di­rec­tion’s Stock­holm Syn­drome, and a sweet ditty called

Din­ing Ta­ble, with a thou­sand teens join­ing in on back­ing vo­cals. But Sign Of The Times, Harry’s only hit, falls flat be­cause it’s dou­bly de­riv­a­tive – a stab at a late-Bea­tles bal­lad, fil­tered through Noel Gal­lagher.

One Di­rec­tion are of­fi­cially tak­ing a hia­tus. On this ev­i­dence, a re­union can’t be far away. Harry Styles is on tour April 7-14; hstyles.co.uk

Styles on stage, and fans at the Ham­mer­smith Apollo

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