Niall Horan Live At The Royal Albert Hall Review

Since March music fans around the world have had to get used to an array of COVID friendly concerts, from the early Instagram lives and socially distanced gigs to the more elaborate streams filmed from empty venues. On the 7th November Niall Horan took on the largest ever attempted of the latter and all for a good cause. 


Live from the Royal Albert Hall, Horan brought into our living rooms the tour he had to cancel due to the pandemic, preforming an hour-long medley of hits from his latest album ‘Heartbreak Weather’. I should have been at that tour catching up with my best friend who I haven’t seen in nearly 6 years, instead we were dressed up in our bedrooms on FaceTime a few drinks in and screaming as if we were in Cardiff’s Metropoint Arena.  


The stream, was Horan taking matters into his own hands, giving something back to the fans who have missed the live gig experience while also raising vital funds for his touring crew who have been left out of the governments furlough schemes. All the money raised from the hundreds of thousands of tickets sold will be going to the #WENEEDCREW relief fund, giving vital financial support to the thousands of roadies, sound techs and lighting designers around the country. These people are the backbone of the live touring industry and without them there may be no tours to return to when the pandemic is over. 

The concert began with a stripped back, sombre version of “Dear Patience”. Horan is sat alone on a stool in the darkness, symbolic of how a lot of us in the industry have felt over the last 8 months. Accompanied by just a piano and some strings the former boy band member showcases his raw vocal talent that was often overlooked by a lot of One Directions critics. As the lights come up and we crash into “Heartbreak Weather” you can see true scale of the venue and every unoccupied seat that could have been filled 90 times over if everyone watching at home was actually allowed to be there. 


Attempting to recreate the feeling of a live concert in an empty venue is obviously incredibly difficult and never is that emptiness more obvious than when a song ends and there is no rousing applause from the audience, however we do get to see those private moments between Horan and his band that we aren’t privy too from the stalls. Laughing about how nervous they all are you see how close these men have become touring the world together, how much they mean to one another, and the cause we have supported tonight is all the more real. These are the people who have been left with nothing. 


As we transition into “Everywhere” and “On the Loose” Horan is dancing around the stage like a man who can’t quite believe he’s playing the Royal Albert Hall, which is incredibly sweet considering he’s sold-out massive Stadiums in nearly every country in the world. When he takes a moment to talk to us all down the lense, he openly calls out the British Government’s behaviour and attitude towards the arts “The engine room of our industry has been completely left behind by our government who have created a furlough scheme that doesn’t support a multi-billion-pound industry”. He makes it clear that he is not here to be the perfectly crafted micromanaged pop star that a lot of people probably expect him to be. This is an incredibly normal guy, with an incredibly abnormal life, who is incredibly pissed off about the situation his friends have found themselves in and he’s doing everything in his power to fix it and hold those responsible accountable.  



Halfway through the show American singer songwriter Ashe appears from the side of the stage. Having travelled to London from LA and isolated for two weeks the two perform the song Horan featured on earlier this year “Moral of the Story”. An announcement that would have undoubtedly been met with deafening screams from a live audience, she slowly walks on to stage and the two (appropriately separated to respect social distancing) deliver a lovely intimate performance of the emotional ballad. 


We aren’t left to linger for too long as the energy meter is rocketed back up again with “Black and White” “Nice to Meet Ya” and “Slow Hands” the songs where Horan really gets to show off his skill as a front man that he didn’t often have the opportunity to do when sharing the stage with four other blokes. His second album leans more into a swaggery rock n roll vibe than the folky inspired tracks of first album Flicker and as he struts around the stage in those glorious BODE block printed silk trousers, I see an performer who is truly content with the artistic choices he now has the freedom to make. 


The show ends as it starts, Horan sat alone under a single spotlight, singing down the camera directly to us. But this time it’s the crew that takes centre stage, those who made this event possible, who make all events possible, slowly tear down the stage and pack it away until the day we are all able to meet again. The frame is set on what really matters, these people have rents and mortgages to pay, bills to cover and families to support. It must have been incredibly daunting for Horan to realise how much these people depend on him to make their livelihoods, and even more frustrating when their jobs were deemed unviable by the government. “Flicker” is transformed into a love song for the live industry and the people who make it happen, its hopeful overtones is a fitting end point, perfectly encapsulating what us music fans have all been feeling since March 23rd “I want this to pass, And I hope this won’t last too long”.


For 60 minutes, even though we would have loved it to be longer, those unsung heroes of our industry took us out of our living rooms and back into the concert halls we know and love, and their commitment has been rewarded by the fans. It’s estimated around 130,000 tickets were sold for the live stream with 500,000 people tuning in worldwide raising over £2,000,000 for the #WENEEDCREW relief fund. Live industry workers now have access to finance that can alleviate some of the stresses being made redundant overnight has caused. But it’s not enough, and it makes you wonder why Horan is currently the only one who is doing something about this?  


During the hour he was on stage he did call out to other performers encouraging them to get involved with the charity “I urge other artists to help with this as well. We all have touring crew; we won’t be able to stick the show on without them” I would like to think that some of these other multi-millionaire musicians have been supporting their crew during this time, but we just don’t know. With this live stream Horan has managed to satisfy the fans missing live music, raise millions to support his crew, put the spotlight on the people who truly deserve it, and deliver a very poignant message to the British Government.


“Last year, live music in this country was a £4.5 billion industry, if not more. I just don’t understand how the people who throw the coals in are being left behind. When a government minister wants to go to the theatre next time, he might have a think about the person that opened the door for him, or put the lights on the stage, or whatever it may be. You don’t mind taking their tax money next year, but they don’t have any interest in paying them this year.” 


You can support #WENEEDCREW by visiting their website: www.weneedcrew.co.uk

Words: Jade Poultney

Photography: Conor McDonnell




All Eyes On You 2021


Munroe Bergdorf

Social activist and model Munroe, known for passionately raising awareness and inclusivity for race, sexuality and gender identity, has continued the fight for better awareness and improved rights throughout 2020 whilst supporting key charities and campaigns such as #DrawALine. Munroe, talking about her own vulnerabilities and personal transition has become a beacon of light and hope for many not only in the transgender community but for all looking to living their life truly happy.




Paul Mescal

2020 was the year Paul Mescal unapologetically burst onto our screens in the television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel ‘Normal People’, and became our main squeeze and latest obsession. Having shone early on in his career in theatre roles ‘Angela’s Ashes’ and ‘The Great Gatsby’, Mescal took the world by storm with his portrayal of ‘Connell Waldron’ portraying the agony we all know when it comes to love.  Mescal has also spent ample time in 2020 raising funds and awareness for Pieta, an Irish suicide and self-harm crisis centre. It’s clear we can expect even more from Mescal in 2021.


Joe Cole

‘Gangs Of London’ star Joe Cole has been leading the film industry over the past five years with notable roles in ‘A Prayer Before Dawn’ and ‘Peaky Blinders’. However, 2020 was the year Cole racked up an incredible 1600km on his bike with a group of friends all in aid of the charity, Momentum, raising over £45,000. With Cole currently abroad filming projects, and as huge fans of his, we can’t wait to see what’s next.


Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford MBE has spent 2020 setting an example to not only the youth but the older generations on the painful inequality in the country we live. Rashford has been publicly campaigning against homelessness and child hunger throughout the year, openly challenging our current government on their unacceptable policies and standards in place. Rashford has often referred to his own experiences from his youth when it comes to the government’s lack of funding and how crucial free school meals were to him. Recognised as an MBE in 2020, we look forward to seeing the impact Rashford will have on 2021.



Yungblud

2020 has been a year of taking no prisoners for many; however, Yungblud has persisted in breaking through releasing his second Album ‘Weird’.  Yungblud has continued over 2020 to not only champion music but also unapologetically stand up for free expression and breaking boundaries when it comes to identity and how we see gender. Yungblud continues to raise awareness for mental health, talking about his own experiences with ADHD on multiple opportunities. With this in mind, Yungblud is set to take 2021 by storm.


Alicia Garza

American Civil Rights activist and writer Alicia Garza is a leading voice in American communities. Garza, who has worked on health rights, is one of the three Co-Founders of Black Lives Matter, campaigning relentlessly throughout 2020 to end racism and hostilities against black people. Not only known for Black Lives Matter Garza has also released her book ‘The Purpose Of Power’ whilst tackling topics on her podcast ‘Lady Don’t Take No’ all with a pinch style. 


Opal Tometi

Tometi is a noted human rights activist, one of the three Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter, and founder of Diaspora Rising a new media and advocacy hub for strengthening bonds within members of black families. 

Her continued work has set the tone around the world for the changes needed to become more inclusive whilst reigniting the civil rights movement. The world needs women like Tometi unafraid to challenge societal norms.


Patrisse Cullors

Artist and educator Cullors and is one of Americas primary advocates for racial equality as a Co-Founder of Black Lives Matter and the Founder of grassroots Los Angeles-based Dignity and Power Now, an organisation dedicated to gaining dignity and power for all those incarcerated. Cullors not only an organiser for fundamental social movements around the world but also a well known popular speaker. Since sparking the viral Twitter hashtag in 2013 and releasing her memoir, ‘When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir’, Cullors has been seen as a figure of hope for communities and continues to fight for better rights for black communities all over the US. 



Inhaler

After being shortlisted on BBC Sounds Of 2020, Irish band Inhaler continues to take the world by storm. Between selling out US venues and touring with names like Blossoms, the four-piece have avidly been making a name for themselves. They’ve just been shortlisted on the Europe Talent Awards 2021 and have an upcoming tour to be played as soon as possible. So keep an eye out, as it won’t be long until the band blowup world wide..



Dermot Kennedy

Well known for his single ‘Out Numbered’ and nominaiton for International Male Solo Artist at The Brits 2020, Kennedy is no stranger to success in the music industry. After playing for Soccer Aid and speaking out about mental health, Kennedy is making ripples and is sure to move onto bigger things 2020.



Arlo Parks

Releasing her latest track ‘Green Eyes’, during the global pandemic was no mean feat but worked in her favour as it landed her BBC Introducing’s Artist of The Year as well as a place on The BBC Sound of 2020 longlist. Parks is making her move. As an avid ally regularly speaking out for the LGBTQ+ community, Parks is laying the foundation for generations to come.


The Mysterines

You really should have already heard of Merseyside rock group The Mysterines by now. They ended 2019 on a high having snatched up support slots with The Amazons and Sea Girls, headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival and released their debut EP ‘Take Control’ to both fan and critical acclaim. While the near sold-out February tour was postponed until June 2021, 2020 has seen another EP ‘Love’s Not Enough’, which has gained fierce support from Radio 1’s Jack Saunders, and a feature on Paul Weller’s next album. Their punchy, tight-knit, filthy rock n roll and Lia’s stop-you-in-your-tracks vocals keep audiences captivated and itching for that debut album rumoured to be released next year.



Nigel Ng

Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng, has shot to fame following his success on media platform TikTok with his portrayal of his popular comedic character ‘Uncle Roger’. Having already been nominated for the prestigious ‘Best New Comer’ Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019 Nigel has already sold out his week long series of gigs at London’s Soho Theatre in 2020 as well as his TV debut on Mock The Week.  We can’t wait to see what’s next for Nigel in 2021.


The Lathums

Hailing from Wigan, four-piece The Lathums have already made more than a prominent name for themselves in the North West with a string of shows so tricky to get tickets for you’d think Noel and Liam had finally but their differences aside. Seriously, gone in seconds. 2020 has seen an endless stream of successes from booking support slots with Blossoms and Paul Weller (pre-pandemic), reaching number 14 in the album charts with their EP ‘The Memories We Make’ and making their TV debut on Later … With Jools Holland. Recently signed to Island Records, their latest EP ‘Ghosts’ is out now with a debut album due next year. 


Tom Grennan HATC Magazine Issue 1

Tom Grennan’s soulful tones first caught our attention on the Chase & Status track ‘All Goes Wrong’. We were then hit with ‘Lighting Matches’ which went on to be one of the best selling debut albums of 2018.  Since then Grennan has been touring the world and working on some incredible new music.  As fellow Bedfordian, I have seen directly the impact him and fellow local artist Don Broco, The Scruff and Sarpa Salpa have had on our little town, specifically putting local venue Bedford Esquires (which is where I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time) on the map.


While we were unable to meet up with Tom for this interview, due to increasing lockdown rules, as well as his incredibly packed schedule rehearsing, he graciously answered our questions to show how music has impacted his mental health over the years.  


Lockdown has given us all a chance to rest, readjust and reset, to examine ourselves and our well being. For many, including myself, it has been a rollercoaster handling all these changes along side struggling with my own mental health issues, so first of all I wanted to check in with Tom and see how he has been coping with this incredibly difficult time. 


“On the whole pretty good you know. Being cooped up like an animal initially filled me with dread. But in truth it’s been a nice mental cleanse and I’ve become proactive and focussed.” And after creating a new routine and focus plan it was easier to adjust to the ‘new normal’. But what does he miss most? “friends and family of course. I didn’t realise how much human contact I had until now. I miss hugging my nan and grandad and seeing friends etc. I’m sure it’s the same for everyone.” He tells me he is most looking forward to “a meal with all my nearest and dearest” post the Covid Chaos. 

It seems foolish of me to say things are going back to normal as it does feel like we are entering a ‘new way of living’ where the pre-leave patdown now includes a face mask and hand sanitiser as well as your keys, wallet and phone. Life has definitely shifted to say the least. I asked Tom how he is feeling about going back to some sort of normality “It’s like coming up from a deep dive and taking that first breath of air. We take a lot for granted as humans, don’t we. It’s been a good lesson and reset. I feel positive moving forward in every aspect.” 


Head Above The Clouds primarily focuses on breaking the stigma around mental illness and being in the music industry can be extremely demanding on our well being. From intense moments of creativity in the formulation of music, to a room full of people and the highs of performance and travelling all hours of the day. Tom kindly opened up with us about his experiences with mental health. 


“I’ve had my dark patches over the years. I call it ‘the well’. It kind of hovers around and above me and brings huge anxiety and fear. But it all stems from an attack I sustained when I was 18 outside a takeaway spot in Bedford. I was badly beaten for no reason and ended up in hospital for a week. Then came the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the agoraphobia. With the help of friends, family, music and CT I came through this and now know what to do when the darkness tries to defend from time to time. I talk openly about it and try to help others as they seem to be surprised that someone like me could have suffered in any way. In truth, I think everyone has a patch at some point in their life.”


But it was music and getting into writing and performing that helped him heal the most. “As I previously said, cathartic and life affirming words. It bought solace and focus. And my inner circle as well as the NHS were also an incredible support mechanism to have.”


Lockdown hasn’t just been difficult for us as individuals but our industry as a whole has really been facing its most trying time. Independent venues up and down the country have had their doors closed for months, with no income and no guidance on when or how to reopen. In our shared home town Bedford Esquires is universally loved by patrons wishing to catch a new band on the Main Stage, dance the night away at a classic Pad Club Night or just grab a drink in the Bar. The atmosphere is electric and eclectic and the future generations of musicians in the area would be lost without it. The Save Our Venues campaign is something Tom has been a huge supporter of on social media since it launched and his passion for securing the future of this local institution came up in our chat. “Without them how do we exist? How do we make the mistakes that make us better, how do we road test songs, how do we become the performers we are today, how do we build fanbases? Live music is an incredible release for me and crucial in my story. Without the seed we have no flower.” 


The success of Grennan, transcending from local jam nights to sold out stadiums and festival stages, reminds us of the very real importance of going out to engage with and invest in our local music scenes and venues that give artists the platform to begin their musical journey. It is essential that we support these venues at this time more than ever before.


While rehearsing for his return to the stage he and his team have also been planning the release of his second album, which I asked if COVID has also had an effect on. “Well we are still a fair bit off from it being released yet. I’ve been sitting on it now for months and it’s quite frustrating, but to release a record in this climate makes me feel uncomfortable. Once it’s out though it’s going to be special, I’m incredibly proud of that body of work and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.” The release of the singles ‘Oh Please’ and ‘This Is The Place’ earlier on in the year gave us our first snippets into the vibe of this release which comes from a very real, raw place. “I went through a serious break up with someone I truly loved. It was such a hard thing to exercise and divulge the magnitude of. I just channeled my heartache, love, and fresh beginning into the record. It was very cathartic and a blessing in many ways. it’s a love letter and a goodbye letter rolled into one.”


Clearly, lockdown hasn’t put his projects on hold but balancing this work load, a global pandemic and maintaining his mental well-being hasn’t been easy. “Music is my saviour in many ways so everyday I’m working is therapy. I love it, an incredible release on every level.” Lastly we asked Tom for his top tip for looking after mental health and wellbeing . He recommends “exercise, exercise, exercise, good food, good people and positive goals.” We preach that Tom! 



Words: Bronte Evans

Photographer:  Mark Mattock

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