One Direction fans are now faced with a new predicament: having to see each member of the boyband perform individually. Gone are the stadium shows where screams were louder than the music. Those have been replaced by intimate venue performances bringing life to the members’ promising solo careers. At Niall Horan’s Nov. 4 show at the Fillmore Silver Spring, the Irish-born singer and former One Direction member came armed with only a guitar and his signature boyish charm but managed to put on a stellar show.
One Direction began a temporary hiatus in January 2016, and in the following months, Horan signed with Capitol Records. He then released two singles from his debut solo album, “Flicker,” and announced the Flicker Sessions 2017 tour in mid-2017, which will be followed by the Flicker World Tour in 2018.
Despite bouts of rain and dreary weather, the line for the D.C. Flicker Sessions show stretched around the block and down the street, even past the opening of the venue doors. Attendees included eager teenagers and young adults who had grown up listening to the band, ready to relive the music of youth.
Ireland was well-represented throughout the show, with Dublin-born singer-songwriter Gavin James opening the show. James’ music seemed to ease the tension and anticipation in the air, bringing a soothing acoustic sound as he built an engaging rapport with the crowd. His performance of his song “Hearts on Fire,” which showcased his wide vocal range, was met with snaps and rhythmic claps.
The audience interactions did not end there; James performed a cover of the classic song “What A Wonderful World,” holding some parts true to the original while rearranging others, with his voice falling into an almost-growl. The playful grit in his voice was met with giggles throughout the audience, and hundreds of voices sang back to him in response.
“That was beautiful,” James said, before launching back into heavy guitar and finishing his set.
“Welcome to Flicker Sessions,” Horan announced on stage after opening the show up with the final track on eponymous album, “The Tide.” He could barely get a word in through the shrieks but insisted, “We’re not f–king leaving.” Horan thanked the crowd for their patience in waiting for his album, which came out on Oct. 20.
The Fillmore’s floor and balcony were packed to the brim for the sold-out show. A few dedicated fans held up signs, which Horan tried to read to the audience throughout. The venue, with its chandelier-clad ceiling, was an interesting location for him to perform in. It was sufficiently cozy to feel like a tight-knit acoustic session, but regal enough to highlight the night’s importance and Horan’s stardom.
Horan did not hide behind the guitar but instead used it to show a connectivity to music that was lacking in his previous projects. He moved effortlessly from slower ballads like “Paper Houses,” the emotions augmented by the soft pink stage lighting, to catchier tracks like his new single, “Too Much to Ask.”
Horan took a minute to calm the audience down and ask for quiet before launching into what he claimed was his most personal and lyrically important song to date, “Flicker.” The room remained relatively hushed, with all focus on Horan’s melodic vocals.
Since the singer does not yet have an extensive discography, he performed every song on his sole album, which made up almost the entirety of his set. He made sure to point out his favorites, like “Fire Away,” a soft and uplifting song that captured the essence of acoustic pop. Horan’s performance of “Since We’re Alone” was upbeat and reminiscent of 80s pop music — the chorus line, “You can show me your heart,” had everyone dancing and bopping their heads to the beat.
The moment fans were waiting for came in the form of a nod to One Direction — Horan crooned through the song “Fool’s Gold” from the band’s album “Four.” It was a sweet and gentle reminder of where he had come from and a recognition of the context of his career. Horan thanked the audience countless times throughout the show, but the performance of this song drove that point home.
Finally putting his guitar down, Horan danced his way through his sensual radio hit “Slow Hands.” His movement on the stage had thus far been limited, but he seemed to make up for it by crossing back and forth and engaging the crowd on all sides, grinning cheekily into his microphone. Horan capped the show with “On My Own,” a song with a strong and steady background beat and a story of reckless youth, and a wave goodbye.
Horan is no longer performing alongside his bandmates, but if the Washington, D.C. stop on his tour is any indication, Horan is ready to make his mark on the world — all on his own.