Niall Horan | Live at Wembley Arena, London

Six long years after his last tour, Niall Horan returns with The Show: Live on Tour and what a spectacle it is.

When Niall Horan released his debut single “This Town” in 2016, fans and critics alike praised his nuanced storytelling and ability to capture his audience with just a strum of a guitar and a gentle croon. Almost a decade since that release, Horan’s artistry hasn’t faltered — he’s gone from strength to strength, crafting a body of work that is both nostalgic and timeless. Now, with his The Show: Live on Tour, named after his acclaimed 2023 album, he’s reminding all of us just how much he is a showman at heart.

Horan played to a completely packed Wembley Arena last week with many camping out hours to secure a spot on the floor. It’s the same feverish, infectious energy that first began over 14 years ago which, much to Horan’s dismay, hasn’t waned at all. Although it’s difficult to untether Horan from his days in One Direction, he spends moments of the show reflecting on the “14 years of memories” he created in and around the arena and London. The Show: Live on Tour began in Belfast a few weeks back. The first show, he ended it with the words, “This is going to be the best year yet.” Just a handful of days later, he is clearly still revelling in the feeling of being back on stage.

Like the ’70s greats before him, Horan is meant to be heard live. Horan thrives and excels when he’s performing and is a true artist’s artist — not just writing songs, but crafting entire worlds around them. “Nice To Meet Ya” might’ve been an obvious choice for an opening song, but with the context that Horan hasn’t toured since 2018 and wasn’t able to perform his incredible sophomore album, Heartbreak Weather, to audiences due to the pandemic. If the album The Show orbits around who Horan is today as a person, a musician, and a songwriter, the tour is, in a way, serving as a reintroduction to who he is as a performer.

The Show: Live on Tour production sees his six-piece band stand atop varying stages, a nod to the old-school variety show performances. Curtains fall and fold together with images projected — sometimes it’s a billboard that reads THE SHOW, other times it’s a moon soaring through the night sky. It’s the little nods to the world of The Show that make it a spectacle.

When a mirrorball drops — a sign that means Horan is about to play a song from his boyband days — fans erupt into screams. Quickly after, the chords of “Stockholm Syndrome” begin to play and new and old fans alike come together to sing. Horan lets us into his mind for a moment, affectionately saying, “I do this for a living,” which he was reflecting upon during the show.

Horan has a knack for making a 12,000+ arena feel as intimate as a 200-cap venue, using songs like “This Town,” “Flicker,” and the delicate ballad “You Could Start a Cult,” a clear fan favourite, to showcase that further. Every quiet, sombre moment is completely contrasted with a stadium-sized roar from fans responding to Horan’s every childlike smirk and high note. Bringing out Canadian singer/songwriter Shawn Mendes for a duet of his hit “Treat You Better,” and one of his first live performances in years, speaks to Horan’s love towards his fellow singer/songwriters.

Teetering between the hits — think “Slow Hands,” “Meltdown” and “Heartbreak Weather” — and the fan faves like “Everywhere,” “Save My Life” and “Mirrors,” Horan keeps the energy high throughout the entire show — a feat for solo acts. Although the setlist was constructed to have a bit of everything, when scrolling Twitter after the gig I read a tweet which talks about how he made the setlist for die-hard fans. It’s true — it’s a collection of songs that demonstrate his growth and grit as an artist, but also were clearly selected with his fans at the forefront of his mind.

As the show comes to a close, Horan’s penultimate song is “Save My Life.” Horan knows the true meaning it holds, but for fans, it speaks to the beauty of a fan and artist relationship and how the latter’s music shapes the former’s lives. Throughout the show, seeing fans holding up fan projects and crying to various songs is a moving thing for Horan to witness. 14 years on and he’s still in awe of the magic he’s been able to make through his work.

For fans who have yet to see Horan live on this tour, he describes it best in The Show‘s title track: Hold tight, get ready for the ride.

Tickets are on sale now for Niall Horan’s The Show: Live on Tour

Words Kelsey Barnes

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