Niall Horan’s first solo show in Boston sells out the Orpheum

By Paula Hornstein, news staff

Former One Direction heartthrob Niall Horan played his first Boston gig on Friday since the band declared its hiatus two years ago. This was only the 13th show of his Flicker tour, but it was clear that Horan is just as comfortable solo on the small stage of the Orpheum as he was in sold-out stadiums.

Gavin James, a fellow Irishman and singer/songwriter, opened the show with his best Bostonian accent which more closely resembled that of a New York street vendor. James sang five of his original songs, including an unreleased piece titled “Boxes,” before doing his best Louis Armstrong impression with a riff on “What A Wonderful World.” James successfully hyped the audience for Horan’s entrance with his original folksong, “Say Hello.

Humbly, Horan and his band walked out on stage, took their positions and went right into the first song of the set, “The Tide,” followed by “Seeing Blind.” The stage was comparably simple from Horan’s One Direction days, with a few Persian-style rugs scattered by his feet and his “NH” logo as the only backdrop. Like his opener, Horan also started off his set with his best Boston accent, but Horan’s was spot-on compared to James’. His first words to the audience, “Bahston, we missed you,” caused screams from the audience so loud that he spent the next few minutes trying to calm the audience down.

Horan began the show with a series of slow songs, melting the hearts of teenage girls filling the venue. “This Town” came first, and the Orpheum was illuminated with the glow of cell phone flashlights. He then brought out his acoustic guitar and jumped right into “Paper Houses,” followed by “You and Me.”

Horan, quite the chatterbox, let the audience in on his day in Boston. In the previous 24 hours, Horan and his band played soccer at Boston University, were welcomed to Fenway Park to brush up on their batting skills and even tried to dance their way onto the Jumbotron at the Bruins game the night before.

Horan introduced his next song as the first song he ever wrote from his heart as an adult. This sincere note was interrupted by some screaming girls which had become a trend throughout the show to whom he retorted, “I’m talkin’ ova here!” He followed with a passionate rendition of “Fire Away.”

Horan also reflected on his sudden inspiration for the title song of his album, “Flicker,” in the middle of watching a soccer game. He immediately left the game, called his band together and had what he considered to be the most “tender moment” in the making of this album. This sweet story caused the Orpheum to fall to a rare hush as he played “Flicker.”

After “Flicker,” Horan announced that his socks were falling into his shoes. A girl in the audience asked him, “What color are your socks?” to which he replied, “Red Sox!” and jokingly threatened to ban the girl from the show for asking “silly questions.” He expressed his love for the Orpheum, a cozy venue that let him have conversations with the audience.

Horan brought out his bright red electric guitar and went into “Too Much to Ask,” then swapped the electric for his acoustic and sang “Since We’re Alone.” After expressing his love for Boston once again, he encouraged his band to play the classic Dropkick Murphys song “Shipping Up to Boston,” complete with his own little Irish jig that made the audience go wild.

Five-sixths of Horan’s band for his Flicker tour, he announced proudly, are Irishmen. After “Mirrors,” Horan took a moment to introduce his band members and commented on each one’s mustache for “Movember.” His band consisted of John Bird on bass, Gerry Morgan on drums, classically-trained Conor Masterson on violin, Jake Curran on guitar and Brit Louis Querelle, the only non-Irish of the band, on keys all of whom can grow better mustaches than Horan, he emphasized.

After a guitar solo-heavy performance of “On the Loose,” the entire band sauntered off the stage for the pre-encore suspense. After close to ten minutes of anticipation, Horan returned to the stage on his own with his acoustic guitar and sang a soulful rendition of the One Direction song “Fool’s Gold,” shocking the audience with this return to his roots. The band rejoined him on stage for an interactive version of his hit, “Slow Hands.” Toward the end of the song, an audience member passed him the flag of the Republic of Ireland, causing Horan to grin from ear to ear as he proudly displayed it on the drumset.

Horan let the audience sing the last few lines of “On My Own,” the final song of the night, before fading in and out of “Shipping Up to Boston” and dancing off the stage, telling everyone to get home safe and leaving their hearts full.

Photos by Lauren Scornavacca

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