Hordern Pavilion, July 22
Fan projects, palpable energy and lots of hugs: Louis Tomlinson already had the audience in the palm of his hands for the openers, a cheerful we made it and a rock-driven rendition of One Direction’s drag me downbut the former bandmate wasted no time making sure this celebratory reunion was one to remember.
It’s been a patient wait for Tomlinson and fans alike, after plans to tour his debut solo project in 2020 walls were derailed by the pandemic. Despite developing a solo sound more towards Britpop and Oasis-esque indie rock in recent years, it’s clear Tomlinson can’t quite let go of the beginnings of his boy band. Not that he wants to.
His affable authenticity and nostalgic playing were the evening’s greatest assets, sending audiences into a daze through three effervescent One Direction covers, and he got noticeably lost in moments as he swallowed up the crowd that had grown with him since his first performance. in the ten years before, until his last performance in Sydney seven years ago, four band members in tow.
This time, Tomlinson’s set was backed by his highly cohesive backing band, who struck a balance between a ferocious and expansive thrilling sound and the intimacy demanded by his often softer and clear vocal tones, alongside reflective lyrics. It gave the live set an edge over the studio recordings and left room for a rollercoaster of emotions – from groovier, crusy rock to Habit and always youand euphoric closing song Kill my ghostto sit effortlessly next to the crowd favorites Don’t let it break your heart and Only the brave. The latter felt like an old friend reconnecting through storytelling and advice.
Of course there were setbacks. Concentration that seemed like a constraint thankfully faded into more overflowing energy, matching the adrenaline in the room towards the middle of the set. The vocals were a bit disappointing on some songs. And sometimes there was monotony and a lack of coherence in the flow of the set. But the crowd embraced everything that came their way during the ride.
They wiped away the tears and were ready to dance as Tomlinson moved quickly from the top – gripping ballad Two of us (featuring powerful harmonies from both band and audience) – in the highly contrasting upbeat songs, taking it upon themselves as the concert stopped several times (due to medical issues) and steadfastly pulled out text after text.
The evening was proof that those who wait are getting something good, but the audience left confident knowing that a new project – and a chance to reunite old friends – lies ahead.
Louis Tomlinson will play a second show at the Hordern Pavilion on July 23 and in Melbourne on July 25-26.