The last time this award-winning country-pop trio hit town, they did an uninspired, sing-by-numbers performance in the opening slot for superstar Tim McGraw.
My, what a difference six months and a few hit records can make.
No longer an up-and-comer, “Lady A” has arrived — and they seem to be enjoying their first headlining tour immensely.
Missouri native David Nail warmed up the crowd with several songs that sounded like they could have been lifted straight from Lady A’s set list. His songs “Turning Home” and “Red Light” showcased a powerful, sexy voice and strong songwriting ability; he’s an artist who deserves far more mainstream success than he’s had so far, especially given the overwhelmingly pop bent of today’s country music.
The three members of Lady Antebellum — Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott – opened the show with an acapella version of their massive hit “Run to You”, singing in front of an optically stunning backdrop that made it look as if they were standing on the tree-canopied driveway of a old southern plantation. Indeed, the filigreed interior of the Arlene Schnitzer was the perfect venue for this act, whose stage decorations were a “Phantom of the Opera”-esque combination of flickering chandeliers, baby grands, and a two-story French window hung with gently wafting sheer curtains.
After picking up the pace with the bombastic “Stars Tonight” and warming every female heart in the nearly full house with the hit “American Honey”, the band unplugged for a standout acoustic version of “Something ‘Bout a Woman”, which is possibly the most traditional country song this group has in its repertoire. After hearing the trio’s flawless harmonies weave in and out with dobros and bluegrass-style guitars, even the most hard-core fan might wish they recorded more songs like that one.
As headliners, Lady A had more time to stretch out and showcase the individual singers, starting with Hillary Scott. Scott is the daughter of country singer Linda Davis, and while she has a pleasant enough voice for mid-tempo country harmonizing, she unfortunately lacks the gravitas to carry a song like Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” — a number that is only done justice when sung by drunk karaoke vocalists who are living it, or Bonnie herself.
Lady A’s powerhouse, however, is Charles Kelley – he’s the long, tall backbone of the group’s sound, and an amazing, versatile singer. While his solo choice of a Springsteen/Police medley didn’t really give his pipes room to run, it’s obvious that he’s the heir apparent when Nashville looks for its next Ronnie Dunn.
Not surprisingly, the group closed with an expanded version of their ubiquitous multi-format smash “Need You Now”, before coming back for one encore. The audience sang along with gusto because the lyrics — about a drunk dial gone wrong – are understandable, relateable, and heartfelt. And that’s what makes a great song, whether it’s country … or something kind of like it.