Harry Styles’ two-night ‘Harryween’ Halloween-weekend stand at Madison Square Garden promised to be much more than the “fancy dress party” it was billed as, and the singer did not disappoint. On Saturday, Halloween Eve, he and his entire band performed while dressed as characters from “The Wizard of Oz” — with Styles as Dorothy, naturally — and covered “Over the Rainbow” as part of the encore.
Halloween night was apparently less specifically themed — Styles wore a billowing harlequin clown costume that many fans on social media said they’d thought he’d rip off to reveal a different costume (he didn’t) — but he covered Britney Spears’ 2003 smash “Toxic” in full during the encore.
As seen in videos from the show posted online (Variety attended and covered night one), Styles is mock-stumbling around the stage as the band finishes the rarity “Medicine” — which he hadn’t played the night before — and after a quick pause, the band shifts straight into “Toxic” as the crowd erupts when they realize what it is.
Clad in his white costume with jewels glued to his face, Styles runs from one side of the stage to the other, leading the crowd in singalongs on the chorus and gyrating during the slow and slinky section, before the band brings the song to a tight conclusion.
It was unclear, at least in the hours immediately after the show, whether there was any significance to Styles singing the song in a clown costume, or whether it was simply a show of support for Spears — and, by extension, the “Free Britney” movement — that happened to take place on Halloween. Many fans were confused, and a few observers on social media seemingly felt it was in poor taste, but most had a positive if not ecstatic reaction. Reps for Styles did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment late Sunday night.
Interestingly, one fan online predicted — well before the song performed — that Styles would tear off the harlequin suit and reveal himself dressed in a Spears costume.
— Lon💐 (@londonguy1989) November 1, 2021
While the rest of the set was largely the same as night one, each night got its own rarities: Night one had “Over the Rainbow” and the occasionally-played “To Be So Lonely” from his first solo album, while night two got “Toxic” and “Medicine,” the latter of which is an unreleased original song that Styles played frequently on his 2018 tour. Apparently, it was the first time he’d played either of the covers publicly.
Oddly, while Styles had nailed the challenging “Over the Rainbow” the night before, a couple of the high notes on “Toxic” were a little strained — but then again, “Toxic” is a much faster song, Styles was basically running while singing it, and he’d been singing, dancing and projecting full-blast for more than three of the last 24 hours, to a total of nearly 40,000 people. By all accounts and any measure, Harry and “Harryween” triumphed.
— Ellie Kerbe (@EKerbe) November 1, 2021
THERES NO WAY HES REAL HARRY STYLES SINGING TOXIC pic.twitter.com/YzOk0zvQnH
— ✰ (@salutationhrry) November 1, 2021