Harry Styles breezed into Nashville for a date on his recently launched solo tour Monday night, telling the Ryman Auditorium crowd – populated mostly by girls and young women in full singing (and screaming) voice, “I have to say, when we booked this tour, this was kind of the reason. This room. And it is beautiful, and you look fabulous, so thank you.”
The British pop star, who came to prominence as a member of boy band One Direction, has shown genuine affection for country music, with his tastes running the gamut from Shania Twain to Keith Whitley. While his set included all 10 tunes from his self-titled solo debut, released in May, Styles also gave an affectionate and well-received nod to one of the biggest Nashville-based hits of the past several years: Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” calling it “one of my favorite songs recently that’s come out of this place.”
Strumming acoustic guitar at the outset of the sultry Grammy-winning tune, penned by Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose, the 23-year-old was joined by an auditorium of backup singers who cheered wildly as soon as they recognized the song. Kicking it off at a lower octave, Styles’ voice was soon soaring in much the same way Little Big Town singer Karen Fairchild’s does on the hit version, featured on the quartet’s Pain Killer LP.
Common to both Styles and Little Big Town is their devotion to classic rock icons Fleetwood Mac, which the former showed in his blistering cover of Linsdey Buckingham’s “The Chain.” Because signs and flags are not allowed to be displayed among the Ryman audience, during the encore of “Sign of the Times,” Styles’ first solo hit, he draped a rainbow-striped pride flag on the microphone stand, saying, “I heard these were taken away so I want to put it in its rightful place.”
California country singer Cam opened for Styles, delivering songs off her debut album Untamed. Styles will return to Nashville on June 12th, with Kacey Musgraves in support.