Niall Horan – Spark Arena: April 26, 2024 (Concert Review)

NIALL HORAN played to a packed and excited Spark Arena crowd, bringing his much anticipated tour to his substantial New Zealand fan base. Supported by British singer/songwriter BIRDY, it was a fab Friday night out. Carin Newbould was there to see “The Show”.


Birdy started off the night with a relaxed half hour set which sparked singalongs from the overwhelmingly teenage female crowd. Given that her best-known song Skinny Love was a hit in NZ back in 2013 – when most of the teenage audience would have been in Kindy – it was rapturously received. The British singer/songwriter performed solo with great sound quality, accompanying herself on keyboards. She followed up Skinny Love with a cover of Noah Kahan’s international hit Stick Season, before finishing with her own song Wings. Birdy seemed genuinely pleased to be there and the crowd were in full attendance for an exemplary support session.

Niall Horan

Niall HoranThe energy and excitement of a few thousand teenaged girls was evident even before the 30 year old Irishman took to the stage, only to be ramped up even further by the drop of the curtain and big opening – the appropriately titled Nice To Meet Ya. Most of the songs at this gig were from Horan’s 2022 album release The Show and this was most definitely a show – drapes, electronic backdrop, big screens, an impressive light show and a six piece band. None of this was really necessary – the audience would have been happy with Niall alone and as he demonstrated with a couple of songs (notably You Could Start A Cult), he’s perfectly capable of solo performance, accompanying himself on guitar, piano and harmonica.

Niall HoranThe Show tour started in Belfast in February and made it to Aotearoa after extensive dates through the UK and Europe. Horan and the crew are off to Australia next, before taking on the USA and Latin America, before concluding in October. It’s a long old schedule, but on this 25th date of the tour, the band seemed polished and relaxed. Niall commented that he was “nervous after having a break from gigs for a couple of weeks” but you’d never know it – he was highly accomplished and very self-assured. He rhapsodised about New Zealand and said that he’d been travelling around North Island for the last week, but you could be forgiven for thinking that you were watching a gig in Ireland, with flags, facepaint and phones being waved across the Arena in waves of orange, white and green.

Niall HoranThe eclectic set list ranged from melodic to high energy. The songs – like Horan himself – are undeniably catchy and sexy. It’s all easy on the ear (other than the incessant teenage screaming) and Niall, with his stubble, waistcoat and baggy trousers, is easy on the eye too. In his charismatic chats, he seemed genuinely likeable and appreciative of his fans. For someone who’s apparently sold over 80 million records, as a member of One Direction and as a solo artist, he was humble and down-to-earth. He gave a shout out to Joel Little who was somewhere in the audience and who produced much of The Show at distance during lockdown.

Horan performed the title track of both album and tour on the piano. He mixed it up by being seated for Dear Patience and moved to a protruding stage Niall Horanwith a pared-down band for “a few chilled out ones”. It would be easy to dismiss this artist and his work as teenage pap, given his boy-band origins, but the songs are lyrically sophisticated and have great composition and considerable depth. The slower offerings are clearly folk-inspired and reminiscent of Passenger or Horan’s fellow Irishman Hozier. There’s real versatility on display here, with a range from pop and ballads to pounding beats, with some guitar work verging on thrash. The band – two guitars, two keyboards, drums and an electric fiddle – seemed to be having a fine old time.

It was back to a full-on, full stage set up for Heaven and (is it a cover if you were in the original band?) One Direction’s Night Changes. This was definitely one of the stand-outs of the night, along with the poignant hit This Town, the opener Nice To Meet Ya and the triumphant closing song, Slow Hands.

It was a 90 minute masterclass in how to structure, pace and perform a successful arena gig. Everyone there loved it. I’m sure that the thousands eagerly anticipating concerts around the world will love The Show too. It’s fair to say that here in New Zealand, Niall nailed it.

Carin Newbould


  1. Nice To Meet Ya
  2. Small Talk/ Edge Of Seventeen
  3. On The Loose
  4. On A Night Like Tonight
  5. The Show
  6. Cross Your Mind
  7. If You Leave Me
  8. Black And White
  9. Dear Patience
  10. This Town
  11. You Could Start A Cult
  12. Heaven
  13. Everywhere
  14. Night Changes (One Direction Cover)
  15. Paper Houses
  16. Meltdown
  17. Mirrors
  18. Still


  1. Save My Life
  2. Slow Hands