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Live Review: Niall Horan's Flicker Sessions @ Shepherd's Bush Empire (31/08/17)


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For avid fans of boyband One Direction, the last couple of years have been difficult.

They've waited in anticipatation, hoping to hear of an opportunity to dig out their t shirts, adorn their war paint and emerge from their teenage bedrooms to celebrate the joys of the band they've missed so dearly. 

It is natural to be skeptical of a solo artist emerging independently after such a successful career as a fivesome, but after a small hiatus, fans seem ready to entertain the idea, and Niall Horan did not disappoint at his London show which sold out in just over a minute.

The old blonde bombshell from that boyband that were huge back in the day bounced on stage at Shepherd's Bush Empire for the second of his Flicker Sessions shows, designed to showcase his acoustically driven debut solo album, his stronger voice and his new dashing brunette look. 

Following the success of his first solo singles, 'This Town' and 'Slow Hands', Niall revealed that he felt the need to try something unconventional in the industry, and play his new tunes to his fans prior to their release in album form, which is due to be released this October. 

"I know you're coming to a gig where you're going to know zero of the words from most of the set, but I wanted to play the album Flicker to all of you before I put it out, to give you a feel of it. I thought it was a different way of doing things". 

Entreating the crowd to grab a pint and "have a little listen for ourselves", it was refreshing to rest voices and just experience the new music, which had been so eagerly awaited for two years. 

Each tune was different, a mixture of ballads and light-hearted numbers, all with a strong focus on heartbreak and reflection. Many took on an acoustic rock mix, emulating the influences that he injected into some of One Direction's later music, and which became his signature sound in the band. 

His tight-knit backing band included a violionist which accompanied the style beautifully, and it was nice to see Niall's quirkiness apparent in a stage adorned with what can only be described as an abundance of rugs.

Always one to stay true to his Irish roots and remain charmingly humble throughout his career, he chatted to the audience like old friends, holding them mesmerised and commanding their respect, as fans aggressively shh'ed others in order to hang onto his every word. 

He debuted the title track from the album Flicker, an incredibly raw and nostalgic acoustic ballad, bursting with emotion and reflection. He told us that he feels it to be the "most important song I've ever written", and gave us a taste of what we can expect from the album.

'Slow Hands', Niall's funky second single was the perfect song to bop along to, and the return of some of his signature moves on stage were a treat to watch. 

His performance of 'This Town' was a personal favourite, as his decision to play half acoustically before adding in quiet percussion, guitars and a violin was genius. It was a deliciously emotional and lethargic moment, and a song which sounded beautiful with the crowd's backing.  

It seems that Niall has come a long way since the X Factor an incredible seven years ago, where his solos were rare and the early 1D albums seemingly neglected his vocals. Seven years seems to have done the trick however, as he has adopted vocals of strong and versatile ability, which is silmultaneously calming and exciting to hear. 

A humble, poignant and genuine show, led by a frontman with underrated talent and a stunning career ahead of him. A night which provided the perfect chance to relive my fangirling days. 

Pre-order the upcoming album Flicker by Niall Horan here

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