I’m going to be honest with you – this night almost didn’t happen.
There I was, half an hour before the show was due to start, warm under the duvet. I was burnt out after a crazy few weeks and a whirlwind trip to Manila. My cup runneth over. I was contemplating staying in, away from the cold and large crowds, for an evening of the unknown.
But I had come this far. There’s a long weekend ahead and I had nothing to do for the foreseeable future except this. Besides, I’d always dreamed of going to a concert alone. So when the opportunity presented itself via email advertising tickets for the upcoming Niall Horan concert, I jumped at the chance. I’ve heard his single “Slow Hands’ in the airwaves and honestly it’s such a jam. Plus, I had a week to play the album on repeat and learn the songs.
I told my parents about it over dinner after I bought a ticket.
“Which one are you going to?” dad asked in between sips of water.
“Oh good, so it’s not gonna be rough and wild then?”
He had a valid point. One of the main things that probably stopped me from going to big concerts alone was fear. Would I be okay on my own? Is it going to be safe? Will I look lame because I won’t have any friends with me? Who will I dance with? What will I do during that lull between the opening and main act? I hadn’t entertained any of these questions yet, afraid that I would overthink it and cower back to my comfort zone, and chicken out at the last minute. But maybe I should have.
“I mean, it could be…” I said cautiously. Even at the ripe age of 26, my parents still worry about me, “I didn’t think Morrissey was going to be wild but a guy literally tried to climb my shoulders to get to the stage so…”
But still. Ticket booked. It was all a go!
I’m comfortable in my lonesome. I like being alone, doing things on my own, enjoying the company of no one else but me. I thrive on doing things by myself – going to the movies, booking a table for 1 for dinner, holidaying. I love locking myself in a hotel room with nothing to do except just be.
Going to a concert felt like the ultimate form of being alone. Mainly because of the aforementioned questions. Concerts are predominantly seen as a social thing so to go alone felt like the juxtaposition. I was curious to know how it felt to dance alone in a big crowd where you don’t know anyone.
So I soldiered on, convincing myself that this was exactly what I needed. I was stuck in a rut, too entangled in my everyday routine. Stale. I needed to open myself up to new experiences and this was a great place to start.
I got out of the warm bed and put on my finest threads – mesh pants, a lace corset, my favourite leather jacket, and sneakers. I took it a step further and spent time doing my makeup – foundation, eyeshadow, highlighter… the works! I even curled my lashes for good measure. By the time I was done, I was, as Beyonce would say, “feeling myself”. Spending that extra pamper time felt like a sacred self-care ritual, and by doing that I had inadvertently learnt my first lesson of the night: take time out to do what makes you feel good.
Embarking on this adventure was more than trying a new experience – it was also about self-discovery. Part of that was knowing what makes me feel the most beautiful and most myself. So armed with that new wisdom, I grabbed my bag and made my way out.
Maren Morris was down to her last three songs by the time I got to my seat (right at the front, great sightline. Luckily she ended with the smash hit “The Middle” – a song that I only heard earlier that morning on the train courtesy of my younger, much hip brother. I snapped him a quick video of Maren performing the song – “I LOVE THIS SONG” – I captioned. Because even though I was alone in the arena, that didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to snap friends. I was alone at a show – not cutting off communication from civilization! Besides, when you’re going to a show alone, it’s helpful to at least tell your friends your whereabouts and that you got there safe.
My seat was the only empty one in the row so I sat down while they changed sets. Being the only solo act surrounded by groups of people made me fidgety. Like I had to be doing something to keep myself occupied.
Just as I was about to bring out my phone for something to do, a blonde girl in Princess Leia buns, glitter covering her face and hair came up to me, introduced herself as Claire, and asked if I wanted to participate in a fan project.
“What’s a fan project?” I asked a little too excitedly, perhaps because I was starved for conversation by this stage.
She explained what it was (I found out later that the lights formed a flag – the sight only visible to those on stage. So lovely), gave me a piece of paper with instructions of putting it over my flash when a particular song comes up, and went on her merry way.
I took it then tried to keep still. I was starting to feel self-reflective, surprising for someone who’s literally inside a jam-packed arena. I started thinking about my to-do list, and thoughts escalated pretty quickly and soon I was thinking about my biggest hopes and dreams, and how sometimes they feel so far away yet so near at the same time. I don’t know how my mind went there completely but it did. Idle time can do that to you. I had the sudden urge to have a deep and meaningful conversation with someone right then and there, but there was no one else except for myself.
Waiting made me restless so I started chatting to the girls beside me. Lexi and Sabrina are cousins, I soon found out. They’re lovely. We chat about Niall and how excited they are to see him. The feeling was contagious. I started feeling energised and anticipating the night ahead.
Lexi tells me that if I wanted someone to dance with during the show that I could dance with them. I, in turn, offered to look after their stuff while they went to get water before the next half. I was so touched by their friendliness and willingness to include me on their special night.
I was beginning to think that going to a concert alone was nice, but maybe it’s nicer when you have someone to share it with. Maybe this is a metaphor for life itself. What good are moments like this when there’s no one there to share it with you? Again, deep thoughts were resurfacing at the most inconvenient time. I was gearing up to partay so I wrote it in my notes and put my phone away for the night.
The show started and the whole arena was buzzing. I hummed along to some of the songs, by then sounding familiar from my previous days of playing nothing but. There were a few surprise tracks like a cover of Dancing in the Dark aka my favourite Springsteen song ever. I danced beside Lexi and Sabrina, who seemed to know the setlist off by heart as they filled me in with tidbits between songs. And even though I was dancing with them, a part of me still felt alone. It wasn’t unpleasant, by any means. Just different.
Before I knew it, we were at the end of the road. One last song. Now this song I knew by heart. The one that stood out to me the most when I was listening to the album. It resonated with me so much that I’m currently listening to it as I write this.
“Everybody’s got somebody. I just want to be alone. I don’t need no one. I have too much fun out here on my own.” Niall croons in the final song, aptly named “On My Own”. I don’t think I’ve ever related to anything more in my life.
It felt serendipitous – to end up there, listening to this song as the night comes to an end. That out of all the concerts I’d ever planned on going to alone, I went with this one. That I was part of the loveliest, most respectful concert crowd I’d ever come across. But mostly that I was there, alive and in the moment, no phones and distractions, just me enjoying my own company. I sang it loudly and proudly, to the best of my abilities, at the top of my lungs.
I said goodbye to my new friends and waited for the crowd to clear before making my way home. I couldn’t help but reflect on how the night went. I came in with no expectations except to try something and I came out of Spark Arena feeling invigorated. My mind was buzzing with so many thoughts all going off at once. There was a certain freedom about dancing alone and relying on no one else but yourself to have a great time.
Going to a concert alone made me realise that as long as there’s music, we can never be truly alone. How could we when the songs itself say so much about how we’re feeling? That there are songs written by total strangers who somehow have the same thoughts as you, felt the same way and saw the world as you do. How can anyone be alone with that?
Most of all I learnt that music really is one of the most powerful forces in the world. That even though I came alone, I was part of something bigger. Bigger than the artists, bigger than the crowd. I was part of a moment in time where an entire room was at peace, where nothing else existed, nothing else mattered except for the music.
Going outside the venue where the crowds were still convening felt electric. I wish I could bottle up that feeling of invincibility.
I found one of those ‘bikeman’ carriages (an epic way to ride around the city) milling about felt compelled to ride one. He agreed to take me up the hill back to my hotel, equipped me with a blanket for the cold, and connected me to his Bluetooth speakers. It felt like a scene out of a movie. In fact, the whole night has felt like that. I played “On My Own” of course because, in the movie of my life, this was definitely the background track to this moment.
It was the first day of Winter so the air was cold as it hit my cheeks, the bikeman using all his strength to get me up that hill. I wrapped myself in my jacket to keep warm. I thought about how in approximately five minutes I was going to be back in the hotel, probably at the bar and then ordering Pad Thai from my favourite takeaway. All alone. Just like I’ve always been.
And as Niall sang in the final line of my new personal anthem in those tiny bikeman speakers, it felt like an omen. The perfect culmination to all this.
“You can offer the world, babe. But I’ll take this instead.”