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Words by Emily Hollitt

Picture this. It’s 2011, and hot new boyband One Direction have just dropped their infectious debut single What Makes You Beautiful. Sampling Summer Nights from ‘Grease’, the track, and the bulk of the band’s following releases, focused on creating a feeling of nostalgia through referencing and interpolation. Little did we know then the impact this group would have on us today. Creating a complete cultural shift, much like The Beatles did when they first hit the scene, the group mirrored their influence for a whole new generation. They mastered the parasocial relationship with their own set of inside jokes, and through following the group from their humble beginnings on The X Factor. At the peak of the Wattpad fanfiction, the UK flag Supré tights, the Dolly Magazine poster wall and the Buzzfeed quiz, the boys found their market—and the sheer economic power of the teenage girl—and made history, become one of the highest-grossing boybands of all time.

5 years after debuting, the group went on indefinite hiatus, Niall, Harry, Zayn, Liam, and Louis have all continued the success of the band through their solo careers. And their fans grew and changed with them. With 3 successful albums under his belt, Niall Horan has one of the most notable solo careers of the bunch. Since branching out on his own, he’s proved himself as not only an accomplished vocalist but an incredible songwriter. Combining his knack for hooky, pop-friendly melodies mixed with elements of rock and folk, Horan’s music makes you dance as much as it can make you want to cry.

To celebrate the release of his latest album ‘The Show’, Horan has embarked on a world tour, with Brisbane as his first stop in Australia. Alongside him he brought Birdy, who also debuted in 2011 with her self-titled debut covers album, flipping songs in such a unique way they became entirely her own. Together, the two created one hell of a nostalgic line-up. 

The Brisbane Entertainment Centre was the perfect venue to hold the event. Large enough to suit the demand, without compromising on the intimacy needed from artists to connect with their fans. The venue was more than prepared for the influx of avid fans with all lines moving quickly, easy and well-organised parking–both on arrival and departure—and efficient wait times. Even the bathroom lines for an event with an overwhelmingly femme-presenting crowd were never too long! 

The room was mostly full for Birdy, who graced the stage just on her own with an electric piano. Met with roaring applause, she sat herself at her instrument and played the instantly recognisable first few notes of her cover of Cherry Ghost’s 2007 hit People Help the People. Immediately, 10,000 phone lights lit up the room, swaying side to side, fitting the sombre sound of the song perfectly. For such a small body on the large stage, her presence was massive, captivating the entire room with her voice alone. 

“This is a song about someone close to me who lost someone when they were really young… the hardest thing is forgetting things about the person.” She said to introduce Your Arms from her latest album ‘Portraits’.

Next, she played Not About Angels, one of her tracks from the movie adaption of John Green’s ‘The Fault in Our Stars’—which is nostalgia-bait within itself—where she really showcased her jaw-dropping vocal abilities. She continued demonstrating her mesmerising vocal control with following songs I Wish I Was A Shooting Star and, the ballad that shot her into stardom, her re-imagining of Bon Iver’s Skinny Love. Kudos to the sound tech for adding just the right amount of reverb and delay to her vocals so the quieter bridge sounded full. A resounding applause filled the room as she sang that high note. 

“This is one I covered online a couple of days ago. I saw a lot of you commented that you wanted me to sing it. This is a much slower version”. She said, introducing Noah Kahan’s Stick Season, met by roaring applause and a whole-crowd singalong. She closed her set with 2013 original track Wings.

The house lights came on as the crowd waiting excitedly for Niall to hit the stage. Singing through the entirety of tracks by Abba and Queen, while committing whole-heartedly across the venue to a Mexican wave; the room was buzzing with collective excitement. The crowd sang through Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain before the room turned to black again and Niall hit the stage. 80’s-inspired retro opening credits covered the screen, introducing Horan and his band before the opening notes to Nice To Meet Ya began, introducing the set on a high. It was clear from the very beginning that his band were not only seasoned musicians, but incredibly close friends, which really heightened the energy of the performance. Violinist Emily Kohavi really stood in this opening song, not only mastering her instrument but also her stage presence. They played Small Talk next, mixing it with Stevie Nick’s Edge of Seventeen. Red lights flooded the stage as he sung On The Loose before switching to blue for On A Night Like Tonight.

Niall moved to a solo piano in the centre of the stage, transitioning to a much more intimate setting as he welcomes everyone to the tour. 

“Wow, you’re loud!” he says to the crowd, “If this is your first show, welcome! Yes, it’s really this loud! Don’t stick your fingers in your ears though. You won’t be able to hear me!” He joked before singing his album’s title track The Show. This song really highlighted his vocal ability, showcasing how his voice has changed and strengthened since his days with One Direction. He sang Never Grow Up and Heartbreak Weather before bringing the tempo back up for Black And White, which was complimented by rainbow visuals behind him in each chorus. “You Aussie’s know how to do it. Fair dinkum mate!” he said in a flawless Australian accent.

The lights went dim as the band moved to form a small circle in the front pillar of the stage before singing an intimate rendition of Flicker. The intimacy was only broken for a second before the final chorus as Niall had to move away from the microphone to laugh at a fan getting a little too passionate as she sang along. He opens his emotional rendition of fan-favourite This Town with an acapella 4-part harmony rendition of the song’s chorus, before playing the full song. The sound of the room singing along is deafening yet didn’t detract from the intimacy of the moment. At was at this point, about midway through the show, that the shoey chants began. “I’ll tell you what, I won’t be drinking out of any of your shoes!”. He then moved to the front of the pillar with a guitar and his harmonica for a solo rendition of You Could Start a Cult. The song made him visibly emotional as the cameras focused on his face on the screen behind him. 

He stepped back on to the main stage as it was flooded with purple lights before the recognisable opening notes to Heaven played. Bright fairy light visuals played on the screen behind the stage as he transitions to Everywhere. A long, drawn-out deep synth built suspense in the room before he sang the lines “Going out tonight, changes into something red.”, opening one of One Direction’s biggest hits Night Changes. The roar across the room was loud as the fans sang every word back to him. Red lights filled the stage for Fire Away.

“Can we get a beer up here please? I already feel bad for my acid reflux!” he announced as he trails the room, reading fan signs, and is again hounded to do a shoey. “Do I need backup dancers?”  he read aloud. “Show me your moves… No! I’ve seen enough!”  he answered jokingly. “Should I quit my job? My manager is here!… My beer is here!” he said, quickly avoiding the question as he does his very first shoey ever! He even went in for a second round, spilling most of the beer all over his shirt. “Don’t leave your job!”  he says, re-acknowledging the sign he was reading. “Rock paper scissors?” he read. “How about if you win, you get a guitar pick!”. To the glee of the crowd, she won!

The backdrop transitioned to black and white as the band played the opening notes to Mirrors.  Drummer Alex Torjussen really demonstrated his chops here, changing to a halftime beat before bringing the full beat back during the final chorus. Horan closed the night with Still. The song began with just Niall and his guitar before the full band re-joined for the second verse. The band then left the stage and the house lights turned black, which was met with as conflicting “One more song!” and “Niall!”. Soon, the lights above the stage lit up as Niall and his band stepped back on the stage and the first few bright, sparkly synth notes open Save My Life. After the song, he ran to the front of the stage, Australian flag in tow.

“Brisbane, thank you so much for having me! I’ll forever be coming back here as long as you’ll have me… It’s not easy to come to concerts these days. I’m grateful you chose to see me”.

Slow Hands played next, ending the night on an incredible high. He kept the Australian flag tucked into his jeans for the entire performance, moving around the stage to interact with each member of his incredible band. They joined together for a final theatre-style bow, fitting the theme of the show brilliantly, before walking off stage as the house lights switched back on.

The crowd quickly began to trickle out, still resonating with excitement from the show we had just watched. From the incredible care of the venue to make the gig as safe and efficient as possible mixed with the sheer joy and passion of those on stage, the show was nothing but wonderful from beginning to end. The whole night felt like sitting in a time machine, revisiting some of the best years of our lives. The all-ages element allowed a new, younger patrons to start building these memories for themselves, making room for this feeling of uninhibited joy to be transferred to the next generation.



Thanks to On The Map PR

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