Once you get over the crisp fall weather and nauseous smells of Chicago, it’s actually quite a charming place. Its people can be in a hurry at times, but mainly they seem carefree as they walk to brunch or the business district.
It wasn’t hard to match their pace as I walked around looking for a coffee shop, and then a funky vintage store. But I didn’t take a two hour flight just to drink coffee and take walks, I went to see an old friend of sorts.
The United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls, can be found at 1901 W Madison St. in Chicago Illinois. Its almost comical dome shape can be seen for blocks when lit. I can’t help but cringe at the thought of the electrical bill. It’s over 950,000 square feet in total, and contains 1,850 doors. It’s housed musicians like Billy Joel, and Jennifer Lopez. But usually you can find the Blackhawks or Bulls there on the weekends.
However, Oct. 9-15, there were no conferences or practices held at the UC. That’s only because it had already promised to hold a crowd of 61,500 Harry Styles fans.
To the untrained eye, a Harry Styles concert looks like a fashion show for brightly dressed teenagers, and the boyfriends and disgruntled fathers they drag behind them are their accessories. People spend months planning these outfits, just to document them on TikTok. Using the hashtag, #hslotoutfit. The formula for these outfits usually boils down to a pair of high waisted colorful pants, a fun top, and a glittery vest or jacket. It was almost cult-like how everyone I encountered was dressed like this.
After you scan your tickets and abandon your purses, most people wait 2-3 hours in line for a shirt and tote bag with Harry’s name on it. I, however, found a lonely merch stand hidden behind a cardboard car dealership ad. After I — and when I say I — I mean my mother spent roughly $214 on Walmart value T-shirts, and hoodies that promised to clash with any pants I wore, we found our seats. The line only took 20 minutes, which gave me time to spend more money on a hotdog that promised to get mustard on my dress.
We had arrived at the concert by 7 p.m., and made it to our seats before the opening act which started at 8 p.m.. I felt somewhat bad for the opener Jessie Ware, a west London native, because nobody really knew the lyrics to her songs. I think we were all collectively mimicking her so the people next to us thought we were cool for knowing her. I definitely did not. It was also her birthday, and I don’t think anybody knew until Harry had us sing Happy Birthday to her. By the time Jessie’s act had even come to a close, we were already chanting for Harry. And we continued until we got what we wished for.
It was like all the lights had suddenly burnt out, and been replaced with colorful led strips that made up his stage. Then TV’s the size of my kitchen began to play a looping video of saturated flowers growing, people on bikes, cartoon birds flying, and psychedelic eyes blinking. It was accompanied by a strange and low tuning of instruments that made our anxiousness skyrocket and the televisions stayed that way for two excruciating minutes.
On schedule in the mosh pit, a group of security guards, pushing a big black box, made their way to the stage. Inside, a boy who’s spent the last 12 years singing to crowds like this, is curled up waiting to make his debut.
When Harry finally escapes his box and rises through the stage floor, the screaming is so deafening it sounds silent. He stands 6-1 in a pair of green suede Adidas Superstars and dry leaned white trousers. His loosely curled hair reminds me of Elvis. Suddenly I’m a girl in the 50’s swooning over “Jailhouse Rock.” His upper body dons ink drawn swallows, a realistic heart, a topless mermaid, and several religious symbols. The instruments have been magically tuned by the time he starts frolicking around the stage. He walks the circumference of it, blowing kisses, and waving to his fans that hold signs reading obscenities and secrets.
The chorus of “La’s” that begins his song, “Daydreaming” seems to push him back to his spot in the middle of the stage. He sings it flawlessly and finishes it on a down beat which quickly fades into an old Fine Line song “Golden.” He plays his own guitar part and the mosh pit follows him around as he crosses the stage.
“How are we doing tonight Chicago?” Harry yells and the crowd reacts just at the sheer sound of his voice. His North-Eastern London accent makes the word sound more like “Shee-caw-guh.” He talks to us for a bit before singing a few songs.
Then he points to a woman in the crowd who’s holding up a sign. It reads, “I SKIPPED MY GRANDMAS FUNERAL FOR THIS.” To which he says, “Brutal. Absolutely brutal. I do have a question. The show starts at 9 o’clock. What time was the funeral?” The woman holds up three fingers and yells, “It was at three, but the plane left at 3:30.” Harry laughs, “so it wasn’t like a night time funeral. It wasn’t a 10 p.m. start, 11 p.m. pre-game, midnight funeral commences, 1 a.m. a disco ball comes down from the ceiling, 2 a.m.…we rage on.” He then tells her how sorry he is for her loss, and that he should’ve started with that. She waves his apology off and mouths something at him that makes him pause to laugh. “Did you say…It’s fine, she was a really horrible person?” She nods and he opens his arms to the crowd. “And that’s why I love Chicago.”
By the end of the night, Harry had sung more songs than any of us expected. He has a habit of telling us goodbye and thanking us for coming, only to play one more song. When it really is done, he finishes singing a new song and clasps his hand over his heart.
“I’ve had a wonderful time in Chicago. So whether you’re going out after this or going home, please be safe. I love you all, goodnight Chicago.” He exits the stage with arms full of flowers, and blowing kisses to the mass of people who came to see him. As the lights turn back on, we all stand still for just a few more seconds, hoping he’ll come back for one more song.