Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre
Friday, 27 September 2012.
In the six years since they formed in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, US country-pop-rock outfit Lady Antebellum has built the sort of career and fan following that most bands can only dream of, winning multiple Grammy Awards, regularly selling out huge venues and boasting a fan base of dedicated, enraptured followers.
Back onstage in Brisbane for the first time since they supported Keith Urban here in 2011, the band returns having crossed over from being regarded as a solely country trio to having achieved the sort of mainstream success previously attained by acts like the Dixie Chicks and Urban, all of whom are still very much regarded as country artists but have also achieved success in the mainstream.
September 27th, 2012
For Lady Antebellum that crossover success came with the release of 2010’s Need You Now , an album that debuted at number one on both the Billboard Country and Hot 100 Albums Charts.
Its lead single and title track later reached the top spot on both the Country and Hot 100 Singles Charts, officially establishing the band as a major crossover success. Essentially a lovelorn duet between lead vocalists Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley, it is a song of lost love and middle of the night longing that has clearly struck a chord with audiences worldwide.
The first of Lady Antebellum’s two sold-out Brisbane shows is very obviously attended by fans unafraid to demonstrate their love for the group, whether by scrawling their names on their faces or chests, by wearing homemade fan t-shirts, bespoke cowboy boots emblazoned with the band’s name or, in the case of one woman seated near me, drunkenly rolling down the aisle, towards the stage, in an ill-fated attempt to catch the eye of the lanky, handsome Kelley.
She wasn’t the first patron to have had one too many and behave a little strangely either – about three quarters through the show, another woman hoisted her toddler daughter onto her husband’s shoulders, also presumably to attract the band’s attention and rushed the stage, shoving her kid forward and only returning to her seat once Kelley had repeatedly high-fived the little girl.
The band’s fans are, without a doubt, among the most openly demonstrative in communicating their affections that I’ve come across at a gig in a long time. That being said, Lady Antebellum bravely and quite sincerely returns the affections of their fans.
For much of the show, Kelley and Scott reach out from the stage to touch hands with them and even engage directly in dialogue, asking questions and awaiting answers, put out the call for requests and respond in kind with promises to “play those ones for you later, we swear!”
Harmony-singer and multi-instrumentalist Dave Haywood, too, often makes his way to the front of the stage, smiling broadly and high-fiving fans before pointing at particular people and leaning forward to gift them the first of many guitar picks he parts with over the course of the evening.
Kelley, in addition to possessing a strong, supple voice, is an energetic and charismatic performer. At several points throughout the night, he abandons the stage altogether, disarming the security guards required to flank him as he runs up into the stalls, ducking and weaving, grinning broadly as he sings and shakes hands with all the admirers who flock to his side.
After opening with a rousing rendition of ‘We Owned The Night’ the set list that follows over the course of an almost two hour long show is doubtless a dream come true for the many hardcore fans in attendance, expertly traversing their three studio albums and including many the songs fans love best and know by heart.
Among the many songs performed are ‘I Run To You,’ ‘American Honey,’ ‘Our Kind of Love,’ ‘Love This Pain’ and ‘Dancin’ Away With My Heart.’ Their biggest and perhaps best-known song, ‘Need You Now,’ is saved for last, delivered as a one-song encore that has the crowd screaming appreciatively.
Though the trio are all in fine form, both vocally and instrumentally, the night’s proceedings are marred somewhat by the fact that the sound is simply too loud. Both Kelley and Scott have undeniably strong voices capable of belting out songs with considerable aplomb, but there are too many moments where even their powerhouse vocals are simply drowned out by the deafening volume of the music.
Indeed, perhaps the best moment of the night’s show is a brief acoustic interlude during which Haywood, Kelley and Scott strip several songs down to their bare bones, exchanging stories amongst themselves and engaging with the crowd before performing a handful of the band’s own songs.
They perform as a trio, but Scott, too, is given a moment to shine solo, performing a gutsy rendition of the song she and Kelley cite as their all-time favourite: ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me,’ the heartbroken lament made famous by blues stalwart Bonnie Raitt in the early 90s.
In such a quiet setting, one so minimalist that it allows not only Haywood’s instrumental skills but also the vocal skills of his fellow band members to truly shine, Lady Antebellum’s greatest strengths are on show: here is a trio whose approach to music is truly old-school and, at heart, minimalist– they start with a solid, simple melody, marry it with heartfelt lyrics, communicate the story therein using their soaring vocals and, in doing so, focus on doing what they do best: truly letting the music shine.
Own The Night is out now through EMI Australia.
Remaining Australian tour dates: