The return of live music after the past two years has been emotional, to say the least. Things may not be how they were before, with the mask protocols and COVID-19 vaccine or test requirements, but slowly, thankfully, the live music industry has been bouncing back.
In February, I traveled with another University of Richmond student to Washington D.C. to see Louis Tomlinson perform at his sold-out show at The Anthem. Most people in the crowd, including us, had been waiting for this show for two years. We got there early and spent six hours in line on a pier on the Washington Channel singing One Direction songs and chatting with the other people around. Some people passed out pride flags or homemade cupcakes or cookies they had decorated to celebrate the concert. There was an incredible sense of camaraderie, respect, love and joy.
One of the great things about live concerts is discovering new artists and bands who open the show. The opening act for Tomlinson’s U.S.-leg of his world tour was Sun Room, a young band from San Diego, California. The four college-aged boys (Luke, Ashton, Max and Gibby) quickly captured the attention of the crowd with their Cage The Elephant-esque surf rock music and pumped up energy. They easily blended together their own original music — songs such as “Fun,” “Crashed My Bike” and their new single “Clementine” — with much-loved classics like “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.
When it came time for Tomlinson’s set, the crowd went wild. For many, it was the first time ever seeing him live. For those of us who grew up alongside his career in One Direction, attending Louis’s first solo tour felt monumental. The show opened up with “We Made It,” a celebratory anthem about overcoming obstacles and achieving your goals when people underestimate you. It was an incredibly appropriate start to the concert, celebrating the fact that all of us in the room had made it through the last two years and were now able to celebrate Louis’s album and our love for his music together.
He played a few throwback songs, like “Drag Me Down” and “Little Black Dress,” and tears were definitely shed. The only other time I had heard “Little Black Dress” and “Through The Dark” live (two of my favorite songs from One Direction’s “Midnight Memories” album) was when I was 14 years old at my first-ever concert. So much had changed since then; so much that I could never have expected. I hadn’t started high school yet, and now I’m nearing the end of college. Hearing these songs again live at such a different point in my life, I felt a special kind of nostalgia. These concerts, the one in New Jersey in 2015 and this concert in Washington in 2022, were milestones in my life. This is what live music can do, it can mark significant moments in our lives and they can be a chance to celebrate that growth that we achieve.
Louis sang most of the songs on his debut solo album, “Walls,” which he released at the end of January 2020. I was lucky enough to be at his album launch event in New York. That night in Washington, when Louis sang the words, “It’s been two years since I’ve seen your face,“ during “Too Young” it felt particularly special that night, as it actually had been just over two years since I had last seen Louis.
Perhaps the most beautiful moment in the concert was when Louis came back for the encore and sang “Only the Brave,” the last track on his album. It’s a short, stripped-back song — only one minute and 46 seconds, with vocals and one guitar — but it is full of emotion about how “love is only for the brave.” The entire crowd held up their phone flashlights covered with pieces of colored paper over the light to create a rainbow and waved their pride flags. I held up my pink, purple and blue flag, and when I turned around to look at the rest of the crowd, I felt like I was in a sea of acceptance and love and safety. This is the kind of community Tomlinson’s concerts create. This is why live music is important, and why it was worth waiting for two years. Because Louis Tomlinson’s concerts feel like home.
Contact contributor Claire Silverman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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