Live review: Lady Antebellum @ the Pepsi CenterBy Ricardo Baca | February 16th, 2012 | 2 comments
An example? Sure. As the band kicked into its sole encore song – its biggest hit to date, “Need You Now” – they put it all out on the table. They started out the familiar song with a full band, playing full-on, loud, in your face. And then, singer Hillary Scott brought in her strong vocals and sang a close-to-the-vest verse alone with an acoustic guitar. And then? Full band. Blaring. Strong! Loud! Bam! SRSLY, GUYS, THIS IS US BEING LOUD.
Lady Antebellum is still a young band, and while they’ve mastered the loud and the quiet, they haven’t quite figured out the in-between. And while they need to learn to meander around that middle ground, the packed house on Wednesday didn’t seem to mind.
Before the band’s set, country and dance hits played to a standing-room-only audience. People were dancing. To canned music. Before the headliner even rose from the stage’s hydraulics.
That doesn’t happen all that often. These people were excited.
The multiplatinum trio lead off with the bluegrass-inspired “We Owned the Night” as a five-piece band backed them up on the stage’s upper deck. With “Stars Tonight,” the trio explored the upper deck and then went out to the catwalk.
The stage set-up was smart. A select number of fans were in the eye of the stage, staring at the band’s behinds for most of the show. (Nobody seemed to complain.) The phallic catwalk extended far into the crowd, and the players took full advantage of the reach – including a late-set Lady A jam with openers Thompson Square (playing a cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Midnight Rider”) and Darius Rucker (a cover of the Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water”).
Whereas some songs dragged (“Our Kind of Love”), others sailed (“American Honey”) and proved Lady A’s credibility with lovers of pop-country.
But perhaps the most telling aspect of the concert was the band’s intimate, close-knit harmonies – and the ease with which their voices fit together. Charles Kelly and Scott have the kind of chemistry that singers yearn for for entire lifetimes – not unlike Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls or Joy Williams and John Paul White of the Civil Wars.
Kelly and Scott are a powerful duo, and some fans of country harmonies would argue that their talents are being wasted on simple, pop-friendly harmonies. But the fans are quite fine with the easy-on-the-ears melodies that fill Lady A’s songs. “Hello World” started as a stark call to action, but it ended as an arena rock blast of volume and reverb – calling into question the band’s ability to play all realms of the spectrum.
Wednesday’s fan-voted song was “As You Turn Away,” “the most personal song on the record to me,” admitted Scott. After the song she relented, “Now we’re gonna lighten the mood.” To which a dude next to me said loudly, “Thank God!”
The band invited a young girl, Riley, to the stage to introduce – and help sing – “American Honey.” The single “Just a Kiss” followed, as did the encore of “Need You Now,” which was the slow jam-sing-along of the night.
As potent as Lady A’s harmonies are, the band still hasn’t found its footing in the whole spectrum of its sound. But that will come. And when it does, this band will be a force to be reckoned with.