Photos by Janine Van Oostrom
With his first solo album debuting at #1 in Canada; Niall Horan brought his Flicker Sessions Tour to a highly anticipated sold out crowd. The 23-year-old Irish native got right down to business setting the tone for the evening with “The Tide” and “Seeing Blind”. Before introducing his third song of the night, he took a few minutes to not only sing the first two lines of the Canadian National Anthem, but he also thanked everyone for coming to the show and selling out Massey Hall. Niall is definitely one of the most incredibly humble musicians around, and it became even more apparent when he said: “This stuff [number one solo album] doesn’t happen to people like me… or shouldn’t anyways”. It’s that cool self-deprecating demeanor that makes him easy to love.
After a couple of his more upbeat songs off the album, Niall slowed things down a bit to let people “chill out”. From the moment the first note of “This Town” hit, Massey Hall was lit up with camera lights, as fans swayed along to the song belting out every word. “This Town” was the first glimpse into what exactly a solo Niall Horan album would sound like when it was released last September. I knew that if the majority of his album was as lyrically beautiful, we were in for a treat.
From “Paper Houses”, to “You and Me”, and “Fire Away” the acoustic John Mayer-esque portion of the set list continued, leading us into “Flicker”. The first time I heard the title track acoustically, was in the YouTube video posted days leading up to the album release, and I was completely spellbound. The song instantly took my breath away from the moment the violins began. You could tell the entire crowd had a mutual love for the song, because instead of trying to sing-a-long with Horan they let the acoustics of Massey Hall carry his voice. There was a moment before the chorus where a light illuminated the stage creating a lens flare effect, which left goosebumps up and down my arms.
While introducing “Mirrors”, he talked about how he feels like people struggle within themselves, so he wanted to write a song to let people know they were not alone. This song brought the portions of the crowd who took a seat to “chill out” back to their feet. The pop-rock vibes boosted by Horan’s electric guitar continued with “On The Loose” which some hardcore One Direction fans have called the love child between “What a Feeling” and “Fireproof”… and they’re definitely not wrong. The lights dimmed, for only a brief moment as thousands screamed for the encore they knew was on its way.
Strapped with his acoustic guitar Horan decided to take it back a few years and play “Fools Gold” from Four, One Direction’s fourth studio album. Niall took the opportunity to get closer to the front of the stage and let the crowd take over. Even from the balcony you could see the radiant smile on Niall’s face, as the sold-out crowd sang and harmonized in unison. He was so impressed that he silenced the crowd and started the chorus over just so he could hear the crowd sing to the melody of his acoustic guitar one more time. As everyone was reeling from an incredible sing-a-long Horan wasted no time hitting you with all kinds of emotions as he transitioned right into “Slow Hands”. He again took the opportunity to interact with the crowd, grabbing his microphone off the stand and working the stage from side to side.
With one more song in his arsenal Niall closed out the show with “On My Own”, which channels his true Irish roots, through and through. Fans who have followed One Direction since the beginning have known Niall to be somewhat of the underdog of the band. He has been the most underestimated since the X-Factor; but is now proving everyone wrong. I’ve always championed myself in Niall’s camp, so to see this solo success is everything I could have ever wanted and more. Flicker is such an incredible debut album that shows off his range as a singer-songwriter, and his acoustic tour was unforgettable.