Words by Shelley Te Haara
After arriving late due to incorrect set times, I was greeted by the powerful vocals of Maren Morris, joined by a 4-piece band, performing an incredible cover of Beyoncé’s Halo.The stage was doused in a mix of blue and purple lights. Collectively, they got the crowd moving, especially when it came to Morris’ final track for the night, the hit that “changed her life”, The Middle (feat. Zelda & Grey). The coloured lights changed like a rainbow as her incredible voice and energy radiated throughout the arena. This definitely prepped the crowd for Niall.
The venue was set up so the floor was fully seated but with the way everyone remained on their feet dancing, you would have assumed it was GA. During intermission the venue went from about 3/4 full to full capacity, and the crowd energy was clearly at a high still as they danced and sang along to the intermission music. I loved seeing a few confident ladies on the floor dancing crazily amongst the other seated patrons without a care in the world.
After everyone had come back and settled into their seats, the lights went down, screams erupted around the room and the phones came out ready to capture the moment. The crowd was particularly young and with the obsession with/power of social media these days, it didn’t surprise me. The 5-piece band started playing and then Niall Horan’s silhouette became more obvious before everyone on stage eventually became fully lit. The back of the stage was lit in a mix of red lines and blue dots which moved to the music. Throughout the night these patterns would change. A mix of brighter lighting and strobe light was also mixed in. After the first song On The Loose Niall got the crowd excited again with a simple, “Auckland, how you doing?”. As he launched into The Tide the crowd didn’t hesitate in joining in and began clapping along. It was great to hear Niall’s vocals a lot louder than the music as this was clearly a focal point of his music, and his voice didn’t seem to falter the whole night. Niall’s strong Irish accent was clearly something the fans loved, as he went on to mention they did, “30 hours of flying to get here” and that he had “been here before” and wanted to “keep the memories going”. He went on to perform This Town which is clearly an important song for him and resonated with the fans. Prior to Niall’s set starting, little notes were found and passed around informing the crowd if they held it up in front of their phone lights during This Town, it would look like the Irish flag. I am usually hesitant in fan projects as they can flop, but the fans who organised this knew what they were doing, Coloured tape was also distributed to certain parts of the arena and as he kicked off, the arena very clearly became an Irish flag. By this point the crowd was still standing and it didn’t look as though they were going to sit down at any point, and continued to stand as he performed the track Paper Houses. Keeping true to most of his music, the band departed the stage and it was just Niall and his guitar as he perform You & Me.
“Auckland! I haven’t said that in so long. Thank you for what you did with the lights. You know I come from a small town where everyone could fit in this arena. So I really appreciate it”. Then much to the delight of the older fans, Niall dove into a cover of Dancing in the Dark by “a great singer songwriter, & human being” Bruce Springsteen. Niall instructed everyone that “if you know the words sing-a-long. If you don’t know the words then don’t because it will sound horrendous”, a funny comment since he wasn’t wrong. If that wasn’t enough, Maren Morris joined him on stage to perform Seeing Blind. The pair seemed to be great friends and they sang the song looking at each other for periods and then at the crowd, harmonising very well in this beautiful duet.
“This is lovely. I appreciate it and I actually mean it. I know people say it all the time but I really do mean it”.
Then he gave a little introduction to the next track, “This song came naturally I knew what I wanted to say and I knew how I felt. I wrote it in 20 minutes It was everything that I wanted in a song”. He asked the crowd to put their phones away for the song and to just feel it. The room got a lot darker as phones mostly disappeared, and although the odd one popped up for a bit but it was a lovely moment as he performed Flicker, adding a violin to the performance and really pushing it that much further. As the performance finished, the phones returned and I noticed a girl behind me bawling her eyes out. It was clear his music means so much to people beyond the fact that he was a member of One Direction. That said, he couldn’t not perform a 1D song, and the crowd sang along loudly to Fools Gold.
“I’m really enjoying this. It’s worth the 30 hour flight. Seriously we appreciate it”.
He then went on to explain how NZ is a bucket list place for him as he has been here heaps but he hasn’t been able to experience it fully, as he was mainly locked in a hotel room. But not anymore, “I’m free!”. After thanking the crowd again he moved on to the next song, So Long which he originally didn’t feel was right for the album but straight after releasing the album he regretted it, and now he keeps the song alive by performing it live. It was written on the piano which is why at this point Niall had moved to the keys set up behind him before reminding the crowd about the sing-a-long rule. The set seemed to quickly come to an end as he performed Since We’re Alone, Fire Away, Crying in the Club (a Camila Cabello cover) and Mirrors.
Obviously there had to be an encore and after a short break Niall returned to the stage in an All Blacks jersey. Jumping back to the old days he performed One Direction track Drag Me Down. The crowd then got even louder as he performed his hit Slow Hands, wherein he got the crowd to lead the chorus throughout the song, which worked extremely well. During the final track On My Own another fan project came to life and white balloons emerged from parts of the crowd and bounced around the room. The show really went out with a bang.
As Niall had been doing all night, he thanked the crowd again, wished them safe travels home and said goodbye. It was clear the crowd enjoyed it and so did he. It was a great show. Simple, yet the funky lights, good conversation and just the positive energy in the room really took it to another level. It may not have been a One Direction sized crowd but it was a big one and I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again soon.