Slow start to Harry Styles' second Singapore outing within six months

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SINGAPORE - It is not everyday an artist comes back to perform in Singapore within six months of his last show here. But as the British pop-rock star Harry Styles' concert at the Indoor Stadium on Thursday night (May 3) showed, six months is too soon.

While his last show at The Star Theatre in November last year was a more intimate affair in a packed 5,000 capacity venue, this year he upgraded to the bigger Indoor Stadium - but despite a larger crowd of 6,000, there were many empty seats.

After a blistering set by opening American indie band Warpaint, followed by a 45-minute wait, Styles took to the stage in a rock 'n' roll get-up of gold, frilly, collared blouse - that showed off his chest tattoos - and black tuxedo pants that were perfectly tailored for all his prancing on stage.

The problem was he did not quite work the stage with the same verve as last year's show until about halfway through his 90-minute set. At first, Styles, now a seasoned solo performer since taking a hiatus from his former boyband One Direction in 2015, was just going through the paces.

Sure there were the double-handed air kisses to the legions of fangirls in the front row and the flashing of his dimples, but after opening with the explosive Only Angel and instant rock classic Woman, he seemed to withdraw into himself.

Thankfully, his four-piece band and their flawless harmonising abilities that were straight out of the Fleetwood Mac playbook, helped lift the energy of his slower, wistful tracks such as Ever Since New York and Two Ghosts.

"I have one job tonight, and that is to entertain you, and I'll do my best," he said about three songs in, recycling a line from his last show. Maybe being on the road so much for his massive world tour has run him down, but cheeky chappy Harry, the one who fed off the energy of the room and bantered with the crowd did not show up till he appeared on a second stage that put him closer to the fans at the back of the room.

The turning point was Sweet Creature, where Styles sang the tender ballad to the lucky audience members who rushed the barricade to get up close. Phones in the crowd lit up like a sea of stars as he started on One Direction number If I Could Fly.

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Just like the fans, Styles finally came into full voice as he returned to the main stage to sing the jaunty new track Anna, which masterfully segued into a brief snippet of the iconic acoustic guitar hook from George Michaels' Faith. It was one of two new tracks, besides Medicine, that he has been performing on this tour. What was equally impressive was the crowd knowing all the lyrics to songs that have not been released as singles, and are only available in grainy recordings on YouTube.

As with last year, the rest of the set was filled with One Direction songs What Makes You Beautiful and Stockholm Syndrome, and Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart, a song he wrote for American pop diva Ariana Grande.

Styles finally unleashed some rock 'n' roll bravado on his version of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain.

He had the crowd hyped up with his rallying cry: "For the next five minutes, I need you singing every word... dancing like there is nobody next to you, you're not going to see these people tomorrow.. are you with me?"

Unfortunately, it all came a little too late.

It did not help that, once again, he did not go for the high notes on the epic, sweeping number that is Sign Of The Times.

Last year was about Styles making the leap from boyband member to bona fide rock star - which he did with aplomb. But real rock stars need to be able to carry the entire show, not just the second half.

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