Concert Reviews: Liam Payne & Harry Styles Go In Different Directions

New York- Comparison is the thief of joy. Catching headlining performances from two former member of One Direction within 48 hours of one another can only bring joy-thieving comparison.

On Wednesday, Liam Payne performed his first headlining show at the Beacon Theater. On Friday, Harry Styles performed for a second night at Madison Square Garden. Both performances were sold out and filled with screaming fangirls. That’s about where the comparisons end.

Liam Payne

liam payne beacon theater

When it comes to measuring the success of the 5 young men post-One Direction, Liam Payne is bringing up the rear. He and Louis Tomlinson have yet to release albums and struggle to find solo success. So far, Liam has released 3 singles as a lead artist. Can you name any of them? Perhaps that’s why his sold out show was a free performance, as part of Chase’s Summer Soundtrack series.

Liam has a stellar and powerful voice. However, he’s struggling to find his musical sweet spot. He tried R&B on “Strip That Down”, Justin Bieber-island pop on “Bedroom Floor”, and Latin on “Familiar”. Yet, nothing seems to catch on. It’s not that the material is bad. It’s just, mediocre and (please excuse me, but I get to do this once), lacking one direction. He’s all over the place and generic at the same time.

He performed all three of the aforementioned singles during the show. He also mixed in his collaborations with Rita Ora  for Fifty Shades of Gray (“For You”), and Zedd (“Get Low”). In addition, he premiered a new song, “Tell You Friends”. It was a middle of the road island-tinged track.It was cute, but nothing to run home about.

Throughout the show Liam continually reminded the crowd that he doesn’t have an album out yet, but that it’s coming soon. This begged the question: Why did he only premiere the one song during the show? The last third of the show he dedicated to covers. He tackled contemporary hits “Attention”, “Shape Of You”, “What About Us”, and “The Middle”. Again, he’s got a great voice and he sounded great singing them. But wouldn’t this have been time better spent premiering/testing new material?

Naturally, he also performed some of his One Direction hits (which garnered the biggest and highest pitched screams of the night). It was refreshing to hear him perform these tracks solo. He effortlessly carried all 3 One Direction songs solo regardless of upbeat (“Drag Me Down”), downbeat (“Little Things”), or in the mid-tempo (“History”). It was a powerful a reminder that below the uncertainty, there’s a great signer waiting to be realized.

 

Harry Styles

harry styles madison square garden

The first noticeable thing walking onto the floor of Madison Square Garden on Friday Night was the staging Harry Styles selected for his show. For an arena, typically a solid chunk of the venue gets lost due to obstructive stage design, reducing the capacity of the venue. Not this show. The stage was backless, so virtually every seat in Madison Square Garden was available and sold, two nights in a row, for Harry Styles.

There’s power in the simplicity of his performance, similar to that of an Adele show. Harry focused on the music, instead of the technical & theatrical aspects many big shows now rely on. Dressed dapper in a suit, he clearly had the time of his life listening to Madison Square Garden sing every lyric to every song off his self-titled debut album. And did they sing. It was almost deafening at times as the fans sang along, and got so active the venue was actually shaking, multiple times.

Despite only having a 10-song album to rely on (he performed all 10), he found ways to fill his set. Like Liam, he also mixed in 3 One Direction songs and also proved that he can carry them all on his own. There was also the Ariana Grande song he co-wrote “Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart”, and two unreleased cuts: “Anna” and the possible bisexual anthem “Medicine” (there’s a line about boys and girls that has gained attention).

He also included a rousing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” as a part of his encore. And, for the first time, he added an extra cut to his finale. He called on opening act Kacey Musgraves to join him for a show-stopping rendition of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One”. Closing the evening with the rapid “Kiwi”, the venue shook, screamed, and wailed in pleasure.

 

Set Lists

Liam Payne. Beacon Theater. June 20, 2018

  1. Bedroom Floor
  2. Get Low
  3. For You
  4. Attention
  5. The Middle
  6. What About Us?
  7. History
  8. Little Things
  9. Drag Me Down
  10. Tell Your Friends
  11. Shape Of You
  12. Familiar
  13. Strip That Down

Harry Styles. Madison Square Garden. June 22, 2018

  1. Only Angel
  2. Woman
  3. Ever Since New York
  4. Two Ghosts
  5. Carolina
  6. Stockholm Syndrome
  7. Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart
  8. Medicine
  9. Meet Me In The Hallway
  10. Sweet Creature
  11. If I Could Fly
  12. Anna
  13. What Makes You Beautiful
  14. Sign Of The Times
  15. From The Dining Table
  16. You’re Still The One
  17. The Chain
  18. Kiwi

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