Niall Horan at The 3Arena, Dublin, 12th March 2018
Not even the cold, wet Irish weather could deter the spirits of the crowd queuing up outside the 3Arena to see Niall Horan’s sold-out show. His first solo tour had kicked off two nights prior with a successful sold-out show in Killarney, yet if the excitement outside the 3Arena was anything to go by, this show was set to trump it.
Julia Michaels provides a sublime support set; she is audibly and endearingly nervous and is visibly taken aback when the stadium sings her lyrics back to her. Opening with Pink from her album ‘Nervous System’, she bounces around the stage with energy and fervour, dressed in an aptly coloured pink two-piece suit. While the Clean Bandit featured Miss You and Worst In Me prove themselves to be the most popular of the set, she exhibits her stellar song-writing talents in an impressive, acoustic medley of hits that she has written for other artists including Justin Bieber’s Sorry and Selena Gomez’s Good For You.
Niall Horan needn’t have performed any songs at all; his mere presence is enough to trigger squeals of delight throughout the arena. The 24-year-old walks on dressed in grey culottes and a white t-shirt, guitar strung casually over his shoulder. She’s On The Loose is a good choice of opener; it allows Horan to ease into his set, although, given the relentless, fervent cries from adoring fans, a nursery rhyme probably would have equally sufficed.
Horan is a seasoned performer; he struts confidently around the stage (which is covered in red and orange carpets) with the air of someone who has been doing this his whole life. The One Direction expat barely gets a chance to speak in between songs with the furore from the girls in the audience, but when he does, he is down to earth and good humoured. Vocally, he has improved considerably from his One Direction days, where he was often deemed the weak link compared to his comrades.
Horan fronts an excellent band; Santry’s Jake Curran provides bluesy guitar solos in most songs while bassist John Bird from Northern Ireland doubles up as a great backing vocalist. The earnest Too Much To Ask is a definite highlight of the set, as is the more subdued Flicker, which Horan admits is his favourite from his debut album.
Horan proves to have a few tricks up his sleeves; halfway through the set, he welcomes songwriter Ruth Ann Cunningham to the stage to sing their co-written track Seeing Blind together, and then treats the audience to a number of covers including Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark and Thin Lizzy’s Dancing In The Moonlight (the latter of which pleased a lot of reluctant parents at the show). For his encore, Horan performs an altered, slightly rockier version of One Direction’s Drag Me Down, before launching into his sultry swan-song Slow Hands.
As popstars go, Niall Horan is one of the good guys. This tour, which will end in Florida in September, will provide Horan with the necessary time that he needs to develop as an artist and performer. It was evident from the show that he has a clear vision of the type of artist that he wants to be, and given the support structure surrounding him, it’s an attainable goal.