O2 Academy Brixton

8.40pm at a sweltering Brixton Academy and Beverly Glenn-Copeland’s Sunset Village is humming through the speakers.

The atmosphere feels curated but fizzing with the kind of uncontainable excitement that arises when people are awaiting their leader. The leader, in this instance, is Harry Styles – pop’s Prince Charming, rock ‘n’ roll identikit, walking, talking, impeccably-dressed primetime jumbotron of positive vibes and progressive ideals.

He’s playing his first UK show for a long time at Brixton Academy ahead of some much bigger shows at stadiums in June. And he’s playing in support of Harry’s House which came out on Friday 20 May and, according to the midweek charts in the UK, is on the way to claiming the fastest-selling album of the year.

The album continues his post-One Direction vision, weaving hallmarks and aesthetics of late-20th century rock into charming, self-aware bedroom pop. At times it’s effortless and at others it’s a little overcooked. Styles had Mick Fleetwood front his nail polish campaign and the font on his album artwork and merch is identical to Joni Mitchell’s Clouds.

But tonight is all about being in the here-and-now. 9pm sharp and Styles appears in high-waisted Gucci leather trousers and a tightly-tucked custom Gucci black shirt with oversized polka dots, decorated with an acrylic bead Eliou necklace.

As the title suggests, his new album tracks have a certain lived-in feel. His vocals are strong, disproving the “not the strongest singer but what an entertainer!” rhetoric that sometimes echoes down to Styles from Robbie Williams’ imperial phase. His athletic dancing is perfectly synchronised with every groove of opener Music for a Sushi Restaurant and every clipped vocal burst on Cinema. The earth-conquering As It Was – a song which has been heard over two billion times on TikTok – sounds much closer live, its third person lyrics amplifying the personal, direct connection his fans feel.

And though some of the early onstage conversation feels a little phoned-in, the show builds to a place of genuine spontaneity. Before singing happy birthday to a fan, he asked how old she was today. When she says 22, Styles sings half a line of old flame Taylor Swift’s single of the same name. Everyone goes crazy – minds whirring in real-time. This moment was captured, of course, and already has almost 500,000 views on a Taylor Swift fan Twitter.

The push-and-pull between traditional pop discipleship and a more sophisticated phase stills shows, even on his third solo record. There’s a funny moment when he plays a rearranged version of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful and fans sing the original “wro-o-ong” where Styles opts for a smoother, lounge-rock slide.

But the lasting impression is a positive one. Essential moments of crowd control are handled with patience and care and it’s hard to maintain the side-eye about good-guy anthems like Boyfriends and Matilda when they elicit such a genuine emotional response with the young crowd. Masterfully stylish and growing in substance, one acrylic bead at a time.