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Harry Styles Honored for Top Tour of the Year at Pollstar Awards

Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga, Chris Stapleton, J. Cole, Maroon 5 and Billy Strings were among the other artist winners. L.A.'s Forum, SoFi Stadium and Troubadour picked up honors.

Harry Styles Variety Hitmakers
Parker Woods for Variety

Harry Styles’ success as an arena headliner was celebrated with an award for major tour of the year Tuesday night at the Pollstar Awards, held annually to honor the tours, festivals, venues, promoters, agents, managers, talent buyers and others judged to have achieved the greatest success in the live music sphere in the past year.

Other artists singled out at the 33rd annual ceremony, held at the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom as part of the Pollstar Live! conference, included Lady Gaga, Chris Stapleton, Foo Fighters, J. Cole, Maroon 5, Dave Chappelle, Sebastian Maniscalco and Billy Strings.

Artists typically make their acceptance speeches on video, as Styles did this year (although Elton John showed up to accept the top prize in the flesh two years ago). But there were big whoops and cheers for the dozens of industry pros who gave brief acceptance speeches in person, including reps for venues ranging from the venerable Troubadour and Ryman Auditorium to Inglewood’s new SoFi Stadium.

Said Ray Waddell, president of media and conferences for Oak View Group, Pollstar’s parent company: “2021 will be remembered as the year that artists were able to once again connect with fans at live events around the world, and Pollstar is thrilled to be able to recognize the artists, venues, events and executives who were able to make that happen at the highest level, as determined by their peers. This year’s Pollstar Awards is a celebration of live entertainment, and we salute the winners, nominees and all who participate in the greatest business there is.”

Billy Strings, the upstart bluegrass performer who’s attracting young audiences to sell out multi-night stands at theaters, won for best new headliner/artist development story, besting such contenders as Phoebe Bridgers. The other artists picked up their trophies in categories divided by genre: J. Cole for best hip-hop tour, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin for co-headlining the best Latin tour, Foo Fighters for best rock tour, Maroon 5 for best pop tour, Stapleton for best country tour, Earth Wind & Fire for best R&B tour, and Maniscalco for comedy tour of the year.

Maniscalco was the only performer to accept in person, saying, “First and foremost, I want to thank Irving Azoff for giving me Super Bowl tickets this Sunday. I’d also like to thank Kevin Hart for not touring this year.”

Grohl sent an acceptance speech via text that was read aloud, writing in part: “Fuck COVID. Live entertainment will always suvrive, and it will always be vibrant.”

Gaga’s trophy came for best residency, for “Jazz & Piano,” one of two such undertakings she’s performed at the Park Theatre in Las Vegas. Garbage picked up an award for best support act, for opening Alanis Morissette’s amphitheater tour. Chappelle’s award was a special “Damn the Torpedoes” honor. “Disney on Ice” prevailed for best non-music tour or event.

Music festivals were divided into over/under 30,000-capacity divisions, with the Austin City Limits Festival getting the nod among bigger fests and the Pearl Jam-driven Ohana Festival in the smaller category.

Beyond the Ohana honor‚ Southern California had a big showing, not surprisingly, with the Forum winning arena of the year, SoFiStadium getting best new outdoor venue, and the Troubadour prevailing yet again as best nightclub.

Nashville was particularly well-represented as well, as honors went to the Ryman for theater of the year, the Brooklyn Bowl for best new small concert venue, and to the Ascend Amphitheater for outdoor concert venue of the year. (The latter award officially has “Red Rocks” in its name, due to that Colorado venue having won so predictably every year that it retired from competition.) Yet another Nashville venue figured into the wins, as the Bridgestone Arena’s David Kells picked up venue executive of the year.

Best new arena went to Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. Definitely not winning anything with “new” in the title was the Royal Albert Hall, picking up best international venue. The Royal Albert Hall was a double winner, also picking up the inaugural Milestone Award in honor of its 150th anniversary. (The Ryman, currently celebrating its 130th anniversary, isn’t too many decades behind.)

Among individual winners, the night’s most sentimental moment came when the late Steve Strange, who died recently at 53, was awarded international booking agent of the year for his work with X-Ray Touring. A cardboard standee of Strange was brought on stage.

Other individual winners included Live Nation’s Bob Roux for promoter of the year, Live Nation’s Molly Warren with a rising star award, Marshall Arts’ Barrie Marshall as international promoter, Jeffrey Azoff of Full Stop as personal manager of the year, Amy Corbin of C3 Presents as talent buyer of the year, Donna Busch of Goldenvoice as small venue talent buyer of the year, and CAA’s Allison McGregor for marketing/PR executive of the year. Ken Helie, honored as road warrior of the year for his work with Dead & Company, quipped that “for the first two years, they all thought I was a narc.”

Jeffrey Azoff’s speech was preceded by a testimonial from Styles, who sarcastically congratulated his manager for being able to conduct all his business regarding the tour “from the comfort of your own home.” Styles added, “I’m very happy for you… and you’re welcome.” Azoff followed with by far the most comical speech of the night, making jokes about nepotism involving his father, Irving. Perhaps more seriously, he thanked his mother, saying, “I know we were worried i was too nice to survive in the business, but look at us now.” To Styles, whom he credited with cajoling him to become a manager, he said, “I don’t know why you chose me, but you did. I will work my whole life trying to repay you.”

Companies picking up kudos included CAA for booking agency of the year, High Road Touring for independent global booking agency, Bandit Lites for best concert visuals, Rock-It Cargo for transportation company and Clair Global for best concert sound.

Derrick “D-Nice” Jones was the recipient of the Music Unites Award for philanthropy, honoring his work with the Otis Redding Foundation, mental health and wellness orgs, the Apollo Theater and HBCUs.

The full list of winners at the 33rd annual Pollstar Awards:

 

Major Tour of the Year

Harry Styles, Love on Tour

 

Best Rock Tour

Foo Fighters

 

Best Hip-Hop Tour

J. Cole, The Off-Season Tour

 

Best R&B Tour

Earth, Wind & Fire, Miraculous Supernatural Tour

 

Best Pop Tour

Maroon 5

 

Best Country Tour

Chris Stapleton, Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show Tour

 

Best Latin Tour

Enrique Iglesias / Ricky Martin, Live in Concert

 

Comedy Tour of the Year

Sebastian Maniscalco, Nobody Does This Tour

 

Best Support/Special Guest Act and Tour

Garbage (Alanis Morissette)

 

Best Residency

Lady Gaga, Jazz & Piano, The Las Vegas Residency, Park Theatre, Las Vegas

 

Best Family, Event or Non-Music Tour of the Year

Disney on Ice

 

Best New Headliner/Artist Development Story

Billy Strings

 

Music Festival of The Year (Global; over 30K attendance)

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

 

Music Festival of The Year (Global; under 30K attendance)

Ohana Festival, Dana Point, Calif.

 

Nightclub of the Year

Troubadour, West Hollywood, Calif.

 

Theatre of the Year

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn.

 

Arena of the Year

The Forum, Inglewood, Calif.

 

Red Rocks Award – Outdoor Concert Venue of the Year

Ascend Amphitheater, Nashville, Tenn.

 

Best New Concert Venue – Small Venue

Brooklyn Bowl, Nashville, Tenn.

 

Best New Concert Venue – Arena

Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, Wa.

 

Best New Concert Venue – Outdoors

Sofi Stadium, Los Angeles, Calif.

 

International Venue of the Year

Royal Albert Hall, United Kingdom

 

Venue Executive of the Year

David Kells, Bridgestone Arena

 

Talent Buyer of the Year

Amy Corbin, C3 Presents

 

Small Venue Talent Buyer of the Year (Under 10,000 Capacity)

Donna Busch, Goldenvoice

 

Bill Graham Award / Promoter of the Year

Bob Roux, Live Nation

 

International Promoter of the Year

Barrie Marshall, Marshall Arts

 

Bobby Brooks Award – Agent of the Year

Dave Rowan, High Road Touring

 

International Booking Agent of the Year

Steve Strange, X-ray Touring

 

Booking Agency of the Year

CAA

 

Independent Booking Agency of the Year (Global)

High Road Touring

 

Rising Star Award

Molly Warren, Live Nation

 

Personal Manager of the Year

Jeffrey Azoff, Full Stop Management

 

Road Warrior of the Year

Ken Helie (Dead & Company)

 

Transportation Company of the Year

Rock-it Cargo

 

Best Concert Visuals

Bandit Lites

 

Best Concert Sound

Clair Global

 

Marketing/PR Executive of the Year

Allison McGregor, CAA

 

Best Brand Partnership/Live Campaign

Amazon/Climate Pledge Arena Naming Rights

 

Best Hang

Austin City Limits Music Festival, Austin, Texas

 

Best Person to Score a Dinner With

Irving Azoff, The Azoff Company (TIE)

Michael Rapino, Live Nation (TIE)

 

Life of the Party

Ron Delsener, Live Nation

 

Damn The Torpedoes: 2021 Touring Artist

Dave Chappelle

 

Milestone Award

Royal Albert Hall, United Kingdom

 

Music Unites Award

D-Nice