Niall Horan Flicker World Tour – Proof That There Is Life After Boy Bands?

Former member of boy band One Direction, Niall Horan kicked off the Australasia leg of his Flicker World Tour with a show at the Spark Arena in Auckland. He was joined by Country Music superstar Maren Morris.

Starting off the evening’s festivities with a hiss and a roar, American country music singer Maren Morris warmed up a fizzing crowd with everything from her debut 2016 single — the Gospel-inspired My Church — to the much anticipated larger than life singalong-worthy rendition of The Middle; a radio favourite with Zedd and Grey that’s made her a household name.

Soon the stage was set and the lights dimmed for a quick soundcheck — or at least that’s what I’d speculate the sound was — before the piercing teen screams heralded the arrival of a certain handsome Irishman. In a cuffed grey tee, bearing serious resemblance to a certain rebel without a cause, On The Loose got us off to a flying start, setting the myriad of hips in the audience swaying.

Causing a wave of swooning ladies every time he uttered the words “Auckland”, The Tide seemed like an apt transition into something a little slower without sacrificing on intensity. Bathing the stage in a turquoise light, just when you thought the suave serenader had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand, it was time for a magical rendition of This Town that saw the arena littered with flickering lights, sparkling and swaying as the audience sang every word perfectly in tune.

Further tugging at the heartstrings, the crowd lapped up every ballad that followed. From the one that sang of relationships with unrealistically high expectations doomed to fail (Paper Houses) to a tune that gave every boyfriend/husband in the audience the chance to earn a fair few brownie points (You and Me), perhaps what was most enjoyable to watch was how much fun Horan was having on stage, relishing the chance to play instruments that clearly were second nature to him while effortlessly crooning.

Joining Horan on stage for Seeing Blind, Maren Morri’s country twang and Horan’s sweet harmonies made for some seriound on-stage chemistry, after the witty Irishman introduced a cover close to his heart — Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark — paying due homage while adding a youthful spin before punctuating it with the guitar spin dance move Niall is known for.

As the piano riff signalled the beloved Too Much To Ask, a hush fell on the crowd, with the haunting addition of the violin further ensuring there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Following up with his album’s namesake, Flicker, Horan prefaced that the “heartchurner” came naturally and only took him 20 minutes to write because he knew exactly how he felt and precisely what he wanted to say.

Not one to forget his roots, Horan honoured his beginnings with rendition of a One Direction track — Fool’s Gold with nothing but his voice and guitar, joined only by what I would now deem less of an audience and more a choir.

Perhaps one of the most gracious performers I’ve watched to date, Horan took the time to tell the crowd that tonight was well worth the 30 hour flight. He then settled down in front of the keyboard to perform a rendition of his unreleased track So Long before moving into something I can only liken to the audible love child of INXS and Fleetwood Mac, a song known simply as Since We’re Alone.

Soon, with bassist, John Bird, drummer, Alex Torjussen, keyboardist, Louis Querelle, violinist, Conor Masterson and guitarist Jake Curran by his side, Horan concluded that the sad songs were now done, turning things up a notch instead with an unexpected cover of Camila Cabello’s Crying in the Club before he had the audience jumping on cue to Mirrors.

Saving the best for last, the encore featured an epic rendition of Slow Hands before Horan bid the crowd adieu with On My Own.

Disentangled from the cookie cutter crowd pleasing shackles, Horan was free to do whatever he wanted on his Flicker World Tour — and it’s fair to say that the Auckland audience of mothers and daughters as well as seemingly unenthused fathers and boyfriends, were suitably charmed by the affable Irish singer songwriter.

Niall Horan, Spark Arena June 01 2018

Deborah Raj

Click on an image to see a photo gallery by Reuben Raj: