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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Singer-Guitarist Niall Horan Gives a Low-Key, Underwhelming Performance at Blossom

Concert Review

Posted By on Thu, Aug 30, 2018 at 11:01 AM

click to enlarge AMBER PATRICK
  • Amber Patrick
When the boy band One Direction performed at FirstEnergy Stadium three years ago, the guys played on a giant stage that was the width of the football field and included a catwalk that extended to mid-field. The stage featured three huge video screens that regularly projected images of the band members as they performed. It was an over-the-top production.

Singer-guitarist Niall Horan, who embarked on a solo career when One Direction went on hiatus in 2016, took a much different approach last night at Blossom as he brought his tour in support of his solo debut, Flicker, to town.

You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Performing to an audience that filled about three-quarters of the venue, Horan left behind most of the bells and whistles, performing in front of a rudimentary lighting rig that spelled out his initials. The lack of production wasn't the problem. In fact, it worked to put the emphasis on the music. But since most of Horan's solo material consists of rather melancholy ballads, the show just wasn't that dynamic, even if Horan's good-natured attitude (he regularly thanked fans for singing along to his songs) made it hard to completely dismiss the guy.



Wearing jeans and a red short-sleeved shirt, Horan kicked off the 90-minute show with "On the Loose," a bit of blue-eyed soul number that sounded like a cast off Hall & Oates track. The show then slipped into a bit of a rut as Horan delivered one mid-tempo ballad after another. He even had a go at Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark," a tune he described as one of his favorite tracks by "one of the great All-Americans." Swinging his guitar in the air, he mimicked Springsteen and even adopted a husky growl that had a Springsteen-like quality to it. But like much of Horan's original material, his rendition of the tune just never caught fire.

Things picked up when opener Maren Morris joined Horan to belt out "Seeing Blind." The two harmonized well together, and the spunky Morris brought some significant energy to the proceedings.

Things settled back down again when Horan asked fans to turn off their cell phones as he played the title track from his solo album. "Close your eyes and take a deep breath," he said dramatically before playing the somber tune. He then delivered an acoustic rendition of the sappy One Direction tune "Fool's Gold."

One of the concert's best moments came when Horan switched to keyboards for "So Long," a tune that didn't make the final cut of Flicker even though it was one of the first tracks he wrote for the release. Horan delivered the song with more emotion than the other tunes in the set, turning it into one of the show's standouts.

The concert concluded with more ballads, including "Since We're Alone," a song with a bluesy guitar solo, and "On My Own," a traditional-ish tune that sounded like it could've been a leftover from the Once soundtrack. Much to the delight of the many teenage girls in the audience, the encore included the One Direction track "Drag Me Down," a spirited tune which Horan and his five-piece band capably delivered.

Decked out in short black shorts and a bright green Adidas athletic top, Morris, a country-pop singer, opened with a solid 30-minute set. Morris, who talked about breaking down genres by touring with the pop-minded Horan, easily moved from gospel ("My Church") to pop ("Rich"). She sounded particularly soulful on the Shania Twain-like "Just Another Thing."

Despite the vocal acrobatics, Morris often appeared too detached from the material. The highlight came with "Second Wind." Morris became more animated and even interacted more with her four-piece band.  She closed with a rousing rendition of her infectious hit "The Middle." 

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