Louis Tomlinson pulls out all the stops for his show at The O2 in London

At London’s O2 Arena, Louis has it all.

Words: Jessica Goodman.
Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.

“I’ve got these lot behind me, who the fuck is gonna stop us?” This question, asked by Louis Tomlinson moments after headlining his Away From Home festival for the first time two years ago, has become something of a mantra for his fans. It’s been shared on social media ad infinitum, worn on homemade merch, waved proudly on banners and signs, and shouted to the rafters at his concerts. Headlining a sold-out show at London’s O2 Arena on Friday night, it seems clear that the answer to his question is that no one ever will.

Taking place just over a year after the release of his celebrated second album ‘Faith In The Future’, and almost twelve years to the day after One Direction released their first record ‘Up All Night’, in the city where 1D formed and where he played his first full headline show as a solo artist, this might be the greatest full-circle moment of Louis’ career so far. But tonight isn’t a nostalgia trip, and there’s little time spent walking down memory lane. Instead, this show is all about the here and now, celebrating how a shared passion for music and the community that creates can build something that feels like magic.

From the moment he walks out on centre stage in front of his fans, Louis Tomlinson is at home – and his fans make themselves at home right along with him. Opening with ‘The Greatest’ – a song written for and about crowds and nights like tonight – it’s clear that, though it might’ve taken him a long time to get back here, stages like this one are where he belongs.

For tonight’s landmark show, he pulls out all the stops. A specially recorded video introduction? New and improved light shows? Pyrotechnics? A strings section on stage?! At London’s O2 Arena, Louis has it all. His dedication to making the night special is met by his fans in equal measure, using phone torches and synchronised apps to create light shows of their own.

A distinctive figure in trackies and a vest, Louis commands the room with ease. Playfully flipping fans off while singing, crouching down between songs to be closer to the people he’s talking to, he’s the star with his name in lights, but his show remains just as much about celebrating with the people that support him as it is about celebrating the music. Any mention of this sold-out show’s success is talked about as a collective. “O2, sold out?! You lot, unbelievable, right?!” he congratulates the crowd between songs.

Even when he’s talking about his own emotions, saying, “This might be the first time in my career where I have been under pressure tonight, and I feel fucking great about it,” it’s with acknowledgement to the people filling the room who make what he does possible. “You don’t have that confidence onstage unless you know you’ve got the best fucking fans in the world,” he states. “I never feel like I can find the words to ever truly thank you, but thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Restyling old songs to fit the sound he found for himself on his latest album (sir, we’re going to need a recording of ‘Back To You’ rock version ASAP) and giving a nod to his home county with a cover of fellow South Yorkshire sensations Arctic Monkeys between leading rapturous crowd singalongs to fan favourite hits, this is Louis Tomlinson at the top of his game.

“Look at what we’ve fucking done!” he yells to the room mid-set. The message, it seems, is clear: ain’t no one stopping Louis Tomlinson now.