Concert Review: Harry Styles’ Troubadour Show Delivers a Triumph with Tears and Stevie Nicks

Harry Styles Stevie Nicks
Jacqueline Verdugo

Who would have thought that in this age of auto-tune and EDM bleeps that sound like functions on a microwave oven, a member of a made-for television boy band would carry the torch for rock music. Yet here he is: Harry Styles, the 23-year-old “X Factor U.K.” grad and One Direction fave, who has delivered what is arguably 2017’s most stunning musical statement with his self-titled debut album.

On the one-week anniversary of that album’s May 12 release, Styles joked about his limited repertoire onstage at the Troubadour, a surprise gig for diehards announced just that afternoon (proceeds from ticket sales went to the charity Safe Place for Youth). It was the latest in a series of so-called “underplays,” starting with a show at the 600-capacity The Garage in London. And being the Los Angeles performance, the Friday bow came with extra star wattage: a guest appearance by Stevie Nicks, who joined Styles for three songs midway through the set, Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Landslide,” Nicks’ own “Leather and Lace,” and Styles’ sweet “Two Ghosts.”

Styles began the night with an entirely unneeded introduction – “I’m Harry, nice to meet you,” he said to no one in particular and everyone at the same time – and a justified reverence for the room where Elton John, The Eagles, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Carole King were onstage regulars. Indeed, his opening numbers, “Ever Since New York” and “Carolina,” both felt like nods to that bygone era of real instruments – thanks to multiple guitars, a Mellotron, and the impressive chops of Styles drummer Sarah Jones (already deemed a “badass” by the internet) — and irresistible melodies.

Harry Styles performs at the Troubadour on May 19, 2017

Styles doesn’t posture much during his performances – a policy also held by One Direction who famously objected to dance routines and the pop tropes for which Simon Cowell-discovered acts are known – opting instead to concentrate on the vocals, which hit the top of his range and require as much power as his diaphragm can muster. Credit the latter to 1D, which no doubt sharpened his ability to belt a money note (witness: the crescendo at the end of “Sign of the Times”).

At times during the Troubadour show, Styles adopted an Oasis-like stance at the microphone — “Sweet Creature,” for instance, articulating the acoustic subtleties of the folksy number, which he explained was the first he wrote for the album. During punchier numbers like “Woman,” “Only Angel,” and “Kiwi,” however, Styles embodied the swagger of Jagger. He marveled more than once that it was the best night of his life, no doubt due to Nicks’ imminent appearance.

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Duetting with the woman who traded verses with Tom Petty meant both triumph and tears for Styles, who was visibly emotional for “Two Ghosts,” a standout track on the album. While it took a minute for the volume of Nicks’ vocals to match Styles’, her mere presence added a heft to the song and reaffirmed that it is, in fact, a beauty (Nicks said it herself: “It’s a great song, huh?”). Here’s hoping it will be Columbia Records’ choice for the album’s next single.The Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide” followed, which Nicks explained was the one song that the band plays without fail at every single show. “This song travels through the generations,” she said. Styles had no trouble hitting the sweet spots in the harmonies, continuing on with Nicks’ solo hit “Leather and Lace” then bowing down to the “queen of everything” as she left the stage.

“I am losing my s— in a cool way,” a misty-eyed Styles added, and proceeded to slap his face in disbelief.

Earlier in the night, an audience member yelled out for Styles to “Show us your tits!” Without missing a beat, Styles responded, “It’s still early and I haven’t had one drink so that’s a maybe.” By the time set-closer “Kiwi” and show-ender “Sign of the Times” came around, Styles was truly — perhaps finally — able to let his hair down. You could even say he’s just getting going.

Harry Styles

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    1. stinglover says:

      agreed. sign of the times is definitely a jeff bhasker song. all the other credited people are proffessional songwriters. if he doesnt need them, why are they in the studio with them? (all 5 of em)

    2. johann says:

      carry the torch for rock music ????????? are you shitting me right now? rock music is about being yourself. harry styles is a guy who copies other rockstars and tries to live off of a legacy that they created with their talent. how is a guy who has 8 writers on every track a rockstar? how is a guy who cant sing his own songs a rockstar? lets be very clear about this: harry styles is pop. and no matter how many guitars there are in his songs, he will always be pop. no matter how many shitty rings he is wearing. no matter how hard he tries to dress like mick jagger HE WILL ALWAYS BE POP. rock is about attitude my friend. my cat has more of a rock attitude than this dude. no disrepect to the writer but i think youre just a little confused.

      • Alan Dvorkis says:

        So Mick Jagger who is not a good singer and certainly not a good player of any instrument is rock? Agree, Harry is a stretch, but please, no references to Jagger being king. Don McLean already wrote that he certainly was not.

      • Amanda says:

        He actually wrote all of the songs in the album, and most of them don’t have “8 writers” credited lol. Also, yes, he can most definitely sing his own songs…. have you ever even seen any of his live perfomances?

        • jenny says:

          no not 8 writers. actually just 6 lol

        • jenny says:

          correction: its actually 6 writers so not 8 (yet)

        • jenny says:

          well he maybe hasnt 8 but i count at least 5 on every track:D and all the other writers are proffessional songwriters so if he doesnt “need them” why are they in the room with him? i know your probably a fan which is ok but you have to understand that a lot of times popstars names get put in the writing credits in order to make the product more authentic to the listener (you). so dont be fooled honey. the sign of the times hook and verse is most definitely a jeff bhasker song. you can hear it clearly. its jeffs style.

      • How is he copying exactly? And what does it even matter if the music is good?

        Let’s just get the facts out there. The Rolling Stones only wrote ONE song on their debut album. Harry wrote every one of his.

        PS I’m 44 years old and think this is a fantastic album of rock & pop with a splash of punk and folk. The kid done good.

        • laura says:

          For this to be his debut solo album? he’s done amazing and what disturbs me is some of the personal attacks from ( a few, not all, but a few) critics who can’t seem to let go of the fact that he was in a successful pop/rock group. So what if One Direction was created on a televised talent show those boys albums all hit number one practically around the world, all of their arena and stadium shows sold out, and they won not one but four BAFTA awards which are the equivalent to an American Grammy. So to shoot down that band is ignorant.
          Now, back to Harry Styles and his stiller debut album it’s incredible and to think he’s only 23 years old and just starting out and finding his footing? I can’t wait to see where he goes from here in terms of his writing which by the way he did all by himself, the other four people shouldn’t have been given a songwriting credit at all. One dude changed one word and BAM! he gets a song credit and as a matter of fact, that’s what every person who “contributed” to the album was granted. Ed Shereen said it best that it’s not right that someone can change a word or one line of a song you’ve written for beginning to end and be credited for that song which discredits the “real songwriter” in turn.

        • Susan says:

          Sorry sundaylover72 – I was trying to reply to someone else’s comment that is now gone.

        • Susan says:

          If Sweet Creature = Blackbird then every song with a single acoustic guitar and a singer = Blackbird. The songs have one thing in common and that is the pitch of the very first note. That is it. And regarding Harry’s writing credit, he is the first writer listed on every song. He brought 6 years of lyrics and musical ideas with him in the writing journals he kept during One Direction. Harry has also written songs that other artists have recorded and released, including one that was sung on the Grammies (Just a Little Bit of Your Heart by Ariana Grande). In an interview, Harry’s producer said Harry ran the show and Harry has talked about how happy he was being able to control his own music after 6 years of music by committee in One Direction. Harry and some band members and producers were holed up on Jamaica for 2 months writing and recording and he gave everyone credit. As for rock attitude, check out his performance of Kiwi on the Late Late Show (it’s on Youtube in the Late Late Show’s channel).

        • johann says:

          how is he copying exactly:
          sign of the times = space oddity (writers & critics have pointed this out as well)
          sweet creature = blackbird
          clothing style = early elvis presley/mick jagger/ all in all reminiscent of early rockstars of the 50s/60s/70s.

          wont argue if the music is “good” im saying its unoriginal and kind of boring. its missing the rock attitude.

          and with the rolling stones i agree at the beginning they weren’t very original. john lennon even complained in an interview about them saying they copied the beatles and had no real identity. but they grew into something of their own and made a personal mark in history. and just as john lennons criticism of early rolling stones was valid so is my criticism of him as well.

          “harry wrote every one of his”
          im sorry but we all know its standard industry practice to put the names of popstars in the writing credits in order to give the product a bit more authenticity. every song has at least 4-5 different writers on it.

      • no, no. you’re just bitter and ignorant…

        • M says:

          Goodness you are just one unhappy person! Just shush!! Let Harry do his stuff and let others who like him enjoy his stuff..if you don’t like it find something else to spend your time on…shush and move on!!

        • johann says:

          not really ignorant or bitter. i think im well on the money with this observation.

          rock is about being yourself.
          if you copy mick jagger, copy the beatles, copy david bowie it doesnt make you rock.
          it makes you a copy. being yourself takes balls. and i cant really see who harry styles is because all i see is a mick jagger copy. doesnt mean that i dont wish him well or cant be happy for his success, it just means that “carrying the torch for rock” is a weird (dare i say “ignorant”) statement because the writer obviously is a bit confused about what rock is.

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