Bad habits die hard: Steve Lacy continues to impress long-time fans at Marathon Music Works

The top-billing artist served up an exhilarating show during the Nashville stop of his headline tour.


Keng Teghen

Steve Lacy performs at Marathon Music Works, as photographed on Oct 21, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Keng Teghen)

Ryan Wu

When I first downloaded Spotify in 2017, one of the first song recommendations that popped up was Steve Lacy’s “C U Girl.” It was Lacy’s earliest release on the app, a short-but-sweet soul tune he released at 17 years old, articulating an infatuation he had with a girl. As a high school freshman whose music knowledge was limited to repetitive car radio pop, this song immediately drew me into the world of indie, R&B and soul. Although I would not describe myself as having an artistic ear, I knew immediately after listening to the track that Lacy wouldn’t merely be some two-hit wonder lost to time but instead would flourish to become something special. Stepping into Marathon Music Works on Oct. 21, I revisited the same feeling of awe and reverence right at the start of his captivating “Give You The World” tour.

The night commenced with the opener Foushée, a relatively underground R&B vocalist who I only recognized from her feature on Lacy’s “Sunshine” from his latest album, “Gemini Rights.” During her performance, I was taken aback by the stylistic rendering of her more soulful songs, which were performed as 2000s-ish emo rock with a stripped-down arrangement of heavy drums and guitar riffs. The dichotomy between Foushée’s bubbly falsetto and the accompanying punk drumline made for an enthralling appetizer before the main event.

Lacy finally jumped up on the stage amidst chants of “Steve! Steve! Steve!” He’d donned a thick pair of blue sunglasses with black leather pants and immediately enchanted the venue with his charm and charisma, accepting gifts of a cowboy hat and a posy from the front row. 

Steve Lacy strikes a pose with a cowboy hat, a gift from one of the concert attendees.
Steve Lacy strikes a pose with a cowboy hat, a gift from one of the concert attendees. (Hustler Multimedia/Keng Teghen)

His effortless stage presence amazed me throughout the night, and for once I understood the comparisons people draw between him and the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder. Not only does Lacy’s meteoric rise to early fame mirror that of his predecessors, but his crafted artistic identity through unique sonics does as well. 

He began his set with “Buttons” from “Gemini Rights,” one of my favorite tracks of his, then transitioned into his most catchy hits from “Apollo XXI” and “Steve Lacy’s Demo,” a few of which I admittedly hadn’t heard but have been playing on repeat in my dorm room ever since. My personal favorites were his distinctly zestful performance of “Cody Freestyle” and the groovy bossa nova reflections of “Mercury.” 

Between each track, Lacy switched between his acoustic and electric guitars while engaging with the audience. He stopped and checked on the welfare of some of the more drained listeners, making sure they got water before he proceeded to play more music. Unlike what many saw in that embarrassing video this past week of young concertgoers not knowing the lyrics to “Bad Habit,” my experience at Marathon Music Works was the polar opposite. The crowd screamed in recognition at every intro note and loudly belted every single word the whole way through, making the concert a beautiful reminder of how music allows us to supersede our superficial differences to find interconnection.

Lacy concluded the concert with his earliest songs, “C U Girl” and “Dark Red.” Amidst the orange haze, blue lasers and emphatic red stage lights, Lacy’s voice drowned in a sea of overjoyed echoes. It was then that I realized, along with other early fans, I had grown up alongside Lacy during his musical ascension. As I’ve grown from a teenager to an adult, Lacy has grown from a 17-year-old producing beats with his iRig to a widely revered musical force of nature. After expressing gratitude to his drummer and keyboardist, Lacy disappeared behind increasingly chaotic strobe lights and thunderous accompaniment, leaving us all begging for more. Lacy’s “Give You The World” tour was undoubtedly a cathartic experience that left me excitedly anticipating his next release.