Chances are, if you care about rock music at all, you’ve heard of the Stone Pony. The Asbury Park venue is widely recognized as the starting point for several famed performers—New Jersey natives Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, for example—and still operates today. With its iconic rock status, I found it curious that the Jersey stop on British pop artist Cher Lloyd’s tour was taking place there. I’ve been waiting for Cher Lloyd to headline a tour since “Want U Back” came out in 2012, so to Asbury Park I went.
The opening act was Jackson Harris, a pop-rock singer backed by his touring band. They had a pretty good sound—I particularly enjoyed “Go Down with the Ship” and “Miss You.” Harris knew his audience; his cover of One Direction’s “Little Things” caused a round of screaming that shook the building. His last song, “Gone in a Hearbeat,” was a bit repetitive for me, but what he lost there he made up for with rapping. I’m intrigued enough to check out his studio recordings.
Cher Lloyd opened her set with “Swagger Jagger” and “Playa Boi,” two songs off of her debut album Sticks & Stones. I was expecting to enjoy the show, but the opening songs let me know the concert would be better than I had hoped—Lloyd’s songs take on an entirely different sound when she’s backed by a full rock band rather than a synthesized pop track. Lloyd took responsibility for everyone having a good time that night before continuing on with material from Sticks & Stones, introducing “Superhero” with, “Have you ever been in a relationship with someone you think is a superhero, but who is actually a bit of a prick?” In case her previous comment didn’t clue the audience in to the career changes Lloyd has undergone, she put it plainly: “In the past I was known as the Bubblegum Princess,” she explained. “Fortunately, I’m the new me, and I’m punching that Bubblegum Princess straight in the face.” She expressed her gratitude that she now has more freedom in what she’s doing before performing her new single “Sirens” followed by “Bind Your Love,” a song dedicated to her husband Craig.
With the mood already somber, Lloyd transitioned to an acoustic set. Looking for a more intimate setting, “like you’re in my living room,” Lloyd described, she and two band members took seats at the front of the stage. The first song was a cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know,” which was amazing, even if it might have been lost on a good portion of the audience. After covering John Mayer’s “I Don’t Trust Myself,” Lloyd seamlessly shifted into an acoustic performance of Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On,” her X-Factor audition song and a major crowd pleaser. After one last cover (“Latch” by new UK artist Sam Smith), she bounced back to her own material.
Lloyd’s set contained multiple unreleased songs, which, with her excitement over breaking away from her former bubblegum pop image, was to be expected. After the acoustic covers came “Goodnight,” a song for her family. She picked up the pace with the faster track “Dirty Love.” The new song represents her evolution as an artist—it’s playful, but more mature than the fare offered on Sticks & Stones. With the full band backing her, “Dirty Love” becomes a fast, loud track and I’m ruined for the recorded version.
After the high energy best friend anthem “Oath,” she paused the show to offer a disclaimer. “I have to do this for the parents and the kids,” she politely said. “If you don’t want your kids to hear bad words…cover their ears or something because I’m going to do my song now, okay? This is motherfucking ‘Party of the Year.’” After hearing it this one time, I declared it my new favorite song. By the middle of her performance, everyone was singing along with the chorus and dancing like crazy. After one last new song (“Just Be Mine”), Lloyd turned towards some older singles. She performed the solo versions of “I Wish” and “With Ur Love” (side note: here’s to hoping that Cher’s more real image comes with a lack of text speak), closing out the night with the ever popular “Want U Back.”
This concert was absolutely worth the reasonably priced tickets. Jackson Harris proved to be a memorable opening act whose songs were catchy enough so that I still remember some of the words days later. Cher Lloyd proved to be everything I wanted to see in a headliner and more. She brought a little bit of everything to her performance: pop, rap, rock, and even a bit of an acoustic show. With her high spirits and a bit of defiance, she did the Stone Pony proud.