Tag Archives: Harry Styles

We Get Out – Foy Vance, Lee Rogers, Gareth Dunlop at the Birchmere, 5.10.22

[First, some background…] Not sure if it’s ongoing Covid concerns, growing older, or a low-grade depressive ennui, but it’s so much easier these days to just stay home. I planned to attend a picnic/graduation celebration yesterday but when a storm came up, I was content – no, delighted! – to blow it off, lay on the bed near an open window and listen to the wind and rain as it rumbled through my neighborhood. A lovely sensory experience, better than a 3D movie!

As much as I love live music, the concerts I’ve attended since 2022* began are hardly a handful, a trifecta of Couldn’t Miss Personal Favorites – Harry Styles, Courtney Barnett, and Billie Eilish. So, when a personable publicist (redundant?) whom I’ve only ever dealt with through email called me – on the actual phone! – last Monday to invite me to see one of her artists the following night, my first inclination was another “no, thanks.”

[*CORRECTION: I saw Harry last year. Guess I’ve been so consumed with all the recent hubbub, and the Coachella shows, I lost track of time. Love will do that to you.]

Not entirely superfluous shot of King Harry; he’s one of the few concerts I’ve seen in the past year. And get this – Harry follows Foy Vance on Twitter!

But it was such a nice chat, commiserating with the PR gal over how hard it is to get writing assignments (me) or coverage (her) these days. She didn’t care that all I might offer is this humble blog, nor did I promise to write anything at all. However sweet the offer, I believe that most last-minute show invitations are to fill seats so the artist knows that an effort was made.

I said I’d check out the guy’s music and get back to her.  Then my husband reminded me that I don’t get many of these invitations since my columns at Washington Post and Examiner/AXS got cancelled. So I asked my plus-one buddy, Sally, a high-school English teacher/poet/guitarist/pianist, who tells me whether the playing meets an actual musician’s standards, if she was interested in a spontaneous musical night out. She visited the artist’s website and came back: “Listened and really liked!”

This man is not as scary as he looks.

[And now we get to the music. Finally. I hear you sigh.] A singer/songwriter from the Northern Ireland town of Carrickfergus (gotta love those names) Lee Rogers just released his third official release, Gameblood. The album cover is deceptive, all brooding menace with blood red accents. But while he’s a big bear of a man, rich with tattoos (he’s a talented ink artist as well) there’s a gentle giant aspect to his music, the songs tender as well as tough. The album reflects folk influences like John Martyn and Bon Iver, with a touch of Keb Mo’s bluesy Americana. Though I didn’t catch it on the studio set, Roger’s live sound also gave me a Van Morrison vibe (without the messy anti-vaccine crazy). My favorite tune live, “Silent Song,” has a catchy chorus (“The road to heaven runs through hell”) and a stylish animated video that I can share here.

The album was produced in Belfast by another Irish singer/songwriter, Gareth Dunlop, and has a track featuring vocals from yet one more, Foy Vance, a veteran musician who earned new attention when Ed Sheeran endorsed him. (Not to be confused with Vance Joy, the guy who sings “the closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that I’ve ever seen” on the track “Riptide.”)

Gareth Dunlop opened the night.

These Irishmen are longtime pals and collaborators, so an American tour featuring the trio was a logical adventure. Dunlop opened solo with a very brief set, but returned later to play support in Vance’s band and sing lead on a song during the encore. Rogers also retuned at show’s end to duet with Vance on a song they recorded for Gameblood, “Barefoot in the Basement.” The bonhomie was obvious.

And so, thanks to the pretty persuasion of my new publicist pal, I got my lazy butt out the door and had a most pleasant evening. I’m not going to say it had the wild energy of a stadium show, nor the thrill of seeing a long-followed favorite in the flesh, but not every concert has to be a Major Event. With three accomplished talents onstage, I had the musical equivalent of a relaxing drive with pros at the wheel, and the sound scenery was great all the way.

Confession: I knew little about Foy Vance before this show, but he’s an Irish legend.

Since I’m not sure where you, my dear reader, actually live, here’s the rest of the tour schedule, if you care to check it out:
5/18 – JAMES K. POLK THEATER, NASHVILLE TN
5/20 –  THE CEDAR CULTURAL CENTER, MINNEAPOLIS, MN
5/21 –  ATHENAEUM THEATRE, CHICAGO, IL
5/26 –  NEPTUNE THEATRE, SEATTLE, WA
5/27 –  ALADDIN THEATRE, PORTLAND, OR
5/31 –  REGENT THEATRE, LOS ANGELES, CA

Final Note:  I’m fully aware that issues of true substance abound these days, and a music blog is a trivial, maybe even self-indulgent, pursuit. But in these times of war, racial violence, and attacks on female autonomy, music is my happy place, and I hope we can enjoy a few moments together to celebrate it before we return to the fight.

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I’m Just Wild About Harry

The title above is a reference to a very old song that very few of the 20,000 fans in Capital One Arena for the Harry Styles concert (September 18) would recognize. The crowd was, I’d guess, 95% female (shout out to the guys wearing “Watermelon Sugar” t-shirts; perchance suggesting they’d go where DJ Kahled fears to tread?), and they were mostly 30-something or under, with the addition of very willing moms there to share the joy with their daughters.

We had great seats (not scalped!) in the third row of the highlighted section.

I, too, was there with my younger girl, Grace (31 y.o.), and oh, such joy it was! I consider a good concert a near-spiritual experience, being in a room with a big group of people who share a passion for music, finding a sense of community in dancing and/or singing along. Harry’s fans are truly passionate, so we rarely sat down and loved sharing vocals, starting with a massive spontaneous crowd rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” during the pre-show music, after a well-received opening set by Jenny Lewis, one of many wonderful women whom Harry has asked to tour with him. (Last tour, we were introduced to Kacey Musgraves, who’ll headline Cap One herself next year.)

Our seats gave us a perfect view for “Falling,” one of my favorites songs from Fine Line.

Harry’s motto, often displayed on merch like T-shirts, totes, and hair-ties, is “Treat People With Kindness,” and his fans have taken the message to heart. The smiles, the polite lines, the constant “‘scuse me”‘s were more than I can ever recall at such a large event. Everyone was masked (required, as were vaccinations or negative tests) and many had dressed up in rainbows, glitter, and boas for the occasion, echoing Harry’s status as a fashionista and LGBTQ+ ally. Speaking of kindness, during “TPWK,” I watched a stagehand hand a small-size crew T-shirt to the mother of a young (12ish) Down syndrome girl sitting in front of us. Not a moment to show off or be displayed on the Jumbotron screens. Just a nice person, doing something nice for someone else. That’s the kind of affirming night it was

Care for a free “prom photo” momento of the night out with your besties?

This concert was an adventure two years in the making. The tickets were purchased in the summer of 2019 as a Christmas present for that year, and the show, originally set for June 2020, was scrapped when the world stopped. Having had a marvelous bonding experience at Harry’s last DC date, in June 2018, Gracie and I were looking forward to this event for a very long time with a giddy, girlish glee. When her job wouldn’t let her telecommute, she had to drive down from Canada on Thursday night and leave on Sunday to make the Saturday night show. It was exhausting she’ll tell you – but SO worth it.

My fellow Harry fangirl.

I just read Close Personal Friend’s report on seeing @Harry_Styles in DC. Pics, too!

P.S. just for fun, some other shots from the show…

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Quarantunes.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve worked at home for years, so my daily routine hasn’t changed much. My husband retired almost two years ago, then took a 6-month consulting job that allows him to telecommute, so we haven’t lost a lot of income (tho’ I can’t bear to look at the 401K that was supposed to be our safety net). We have a roomy house with a courtyard and a back deck that looks out onto trees with visiting birds – and once, an owl! Our two grown daughters are safely ensconced with significant others, so no one has been stranded where they don’t want to be. And we live in a blue state with a Governor who has a medical degree and takes the science of fighting this thing seriously. So, I realize that everything I write comes from a place of privilege, along with a sense of worry and wonder for those who are fighting much tougher battles.

And yet, with all this comfort, I still have pandemic anxiety. The first hour of the day is the worst, when I lay (lie? never could get that straight) in bed and ask myself ‘what’s the point?’ in getting up. I try to ignore my negativity, grab a cup of coffee, allow myself to drift, and the cloud generally lifts by lunchtime, making afternoon the time of day I can be somewhat productive.

The thing I miss most is live music. I’m not a religious person, but I believe I’m a spiritual one. There’s something about a crowd of like-minded people, enjoying a band whose music has meaning for me, that echoes the sense of community and uplift that other people get from going to church.

Now I seek solace in the scenes of humanity and kindness that are taking place in the midst of this madness. Twitter is a trash fire to many, but I must be following the right Tweeters, as I see sweet, short clips every day of people offering love and help to others. And cute animals. And lots of threads about Harry Styles. (Follow me @mariannemeyer if you’re on the social, and I’ll follow you back.)

When I started writing this, I was watching the Global Citizen One World Together At Home Concert. The heavily-promoted Prime Time show started Saturday at 8pm, but the streaming event began 2pm on my Roku-enabled TV (a phrase I didn’t even know until my brother guided me through the purchase process at Christmas). It ran all day long and gave me something to think about other than how much I long to hug my kids.

So I sat comfortably in my TV chair as a steady array of musicians played live from their homes and the clever folks at the charity organization offered inspiring clips of the brave health care workers and the common folk honoring them. It reminded me of the day I skipped the wedding of a couple of not-very-close friends to visit my in-laws in Westchester, back in the days when MTV was available in limited areas, to watch another all-star charity concert called Live Aid.

Sigh. Remember when concerts were attended by thousands of swaying, arm-waving, GFs-up-on-BFs-shoulders fans? Some medical experts are saying that we won’t be able to have actual audience-allowed live concerts again until fall of 2021. But I still won’t sell off the nice seats I bought for my daughter and me to see Harry Styles in June. Stub Hub tells me I could get 6 times what I paid for them on the resell market, but the money means less to me than the ridiculously joyful time Grace and I had together at Harry’s 2018 show. Like holding a lottery ticket in the days before the numbers are announced, I enjoy the lingering if foolish hope that something magical will happen, we will beat the odds, and our tickets will be winners.

The afternoon concert stream had a lot of fun moments, like Jack Black leading silly exercise routines, shamelessly flaunting his big belly, and his snazzy home. Part of the fun in Zooming With the Stars is peeking into the homes of celebrities. Some offer pristine spaces that show the input of stylists and interior designers; Charlie Puth didn’t even bother to make his bed.

I liked Finneas’ solo, Adam Lambert revisiting “Mad World,” Annie Lennox dueting with her daughter, the impressive way a group of many classical players were stitched together in a Zoom serenade, Milky Chance’s cute accents and the often sweetly awkward English of multiple foreign-language artists. And, to add to my ongoing obsession with boy bands, SuperM was adorable in a new song.

I’m guessing that, dear reader, you’re a music fan that watched the A-list evening show, so I won’t go much into that except to say that the husband and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Usually, when there’s an awards show or tribute concert or some such Major Musical TV Event, I sign onto the social network and partake in the snarky comments of who looks silly or sounds bad, but not this night. No cynicism, please. Not now.

Of course, some jerk at the NY Post ran a review calling it “insufferable” and “lousy,” complaining that it didn’t have half the energy of Live Aid, bemoaning that it didn’t feature any moments like Freddie Mercury’s legendary performance with Queen. He did understand that playing in your living room is a different gig than strutting in front of 50k or so screaming fans, didn’t he? Good thing he didn’t see Charlie Puth’s unmade bed!

More anon. Stay safe and strong. Spread kindness, not germs. And remember…

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Short month, long winter

February is the shortest month and yet it can easily feel like the longest, with the early-setting sun and bitter cold standing between me and spring – and my birthday, on March 1st. (Start planning now!)

At least this February, I have the sweet face of Harry Styles looking over my shoulder as I type, as his 21st birthday (can I buy you a drink, handsome?!) on February 2 makes him my calendar boy of the month.

IMG_4960

Yes, my possibly inappropriate 1D fangirl obsession continues, but I was able to make it work with a recent story posted on AXS.com, when respected indie troubadour Martin Sexton covered a 1D song for his daughter, after she found out that Harry was following him on Twitter.

Other recent stories for that site include:

Courtney Barnett’s new single/video and upcoming album. Very excited for this as I loved her album and the show I caught last year, at the Black Cat. She was also very gracious afterwards, meeting fans and signing albums. Here I am with the cool lady. IMG_3992

Sufjan Stevens’ new album and upcoming tour.

Rapper/singer Lizzo gets coveted spot opening for Sleater-Kinney’s tour.

I’ve had a few other items posted recently, so here are some other links for your pleasure:

Jukebox the Ghost and Twin Forks giving away free music and touring together.

A review of The Black Cadillacs, and Knox Hamilton (a new favorite band) at Jammin Java.

A review of (charming Southern boy) Christian Lopez, also at Jammin Java.

To recap, here are places you can find me and links to a whole lotta love:

AXS.com

Examiner.com – National Music news

Examiner.com – DC Concert Photography (reviews, previews and slideshows)

 Whatcha Gonna Play – the set list site

Thanks for dropping by and please come back soon. It won’t all be listicles (a horrible trend in journalism, with an ugly word to match!).

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