It says a lot about the status of any musician(s) when they can sell out a venue in 3 minutes, especially for a country act performing in the United Kingdom, even more so. Lady Antebellum have been for sometime an internationally recognised act, so it shouldn’t come as any great surprise when tickets sold out as quick as they for their intimate gig at The Brooklyn Bowl in London.
Lady Antebellum had spent a few days in London promoting their new album ‘747’, and earlier this week in a interview with Bob Harris on Radio 2 they announced they would be headlining the 2015 C2C festival. Although their concert came after the official C2C announcement, as soon as they entered the stage it really was all about them.
Lady Antebellum are one of the few acts whose live versions of their songs are as good, if not better than their record version, likewise with acts such as The Band Perry or Brad Paisley, you really get the sense that they write their songs with view to performing live.
As soon as they entered the stage, the crowd probably screamed louder than the 10,000 odd Ed Sheeran fans next door (the full-size O2 Arena). They began with the excellent opening track on ‘747’, ‘Long Stretch Of Love’, probably one of my favorite songs on the album. It has to be said it was a hell of an entrance, with the guitar from Dave Haywood and the rest of the band loud enough to get the crowd rocking, however it did not over shadow the excellent, crisp vocals of Charles and Hillary and for me the opening song was easily one of the highlights of the night.
Their set was a mixture of songs from their new record, but also classics going back through what is now becoming an extensive catalogue of hits. I think many would agree they performed the best tracks from ‘747’, although I personally would have quite liked to see them perform ‘Falling For You’ the last track of the album, but that’s just me being a bit fussy. ‘Downtown’ one of their biggest selling singles and ‘Freestyle’ from the new record were performed at the beginning of the set and really set the tempo for a fantastic evening.
Lady Antebellum seem to have that understated quality which is knowing what songs the crowd want to hear. When you hear a song such as ‘Love Don’t Live Here’ performed with such fist pumping, stadium rocking passion by Charles Kelley and then be able to take it way down, with the heart-warming ballad ‘American Honey’ it really was quite something listening to the crowd sing along in perfect harmony. The performance of ‘I Run To You’ one of my favorite Lady Antebellum songs showed the almost instinctive and natural harmony that Charles and Hillary have singing together.
One of the things I love about going to country music concerts is that many artists will give the backing band a bit of a break, and throw in a few acoustic songs. Lady Antebellum were no exception, their acoustic section included ‘Dancing Away With My Heart’, ‘Wanted You More’, ‘Goodbye Town’ and ‘Hello World’ and by gosh it was marvellous, it is often during the acoustic parts you can see how talented and confident the trio are as musicians, especially with no heavy production and voice-enhancing techniques you see employed by many other artists to mask weak live vocals.
Special mention must go to Dave Haywood, although the quietest of the trio and not as vocally present on the majority of Lady Antebellum tracks, he’s a first class multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, and that was certainly apparent in his solos especially towards the end of the night, when he kept the crowd entertained whilst Charles and Hillary were taking a quick break.
Lady Antebellum finished of their set with ‘Bartender’ and ‘747’ from the new record, in between their biggest hit ‘Need You Now’ which again the crowd assisted expertly with the vocals. A cover of Avicii’s ‘Wake Me Up’ was performed with a country twang of course, and the slight twist went down brilliantly.
Like many country artists who have toured the UK, Lady Antebellum seemed genuinely surprised at the passion and knowledge of country music that UK based fans share. In one of Charles’ various musings, he remarked at “How we don’t just listen to the singles, we listen to the whole damn album.” Hillary was almost in tears, visibly taken aback at the passion the crowd were reciting their songs. As Charles put it the British crowd “Sound fucking awesome.”
In many ways Lady Antebellum’s brand pop-country is ideally suited to mainstream British tastes but not at the expense of many country traditionalists, as many people are bemoaning the lack of songs about love, heartbreak, coming of age etc as opposed to the cliché driven aspects of Bro-Country.
Judging by the rapturous applause and cheers at the end of the Lady Antebellum, it was clear to see that those who were present for this most intimate gig felt privileged to have been there. For Just over an hour, Lady Antebellum showed exceptional professionalism and enthusiasm in their performance, whether it was in the vocal delivery of the songs, or the way Charles covered every inch of the stage, or the story telling ability Hillary integrates into her vocals. This was a night nobody will forget, or at least I certainly won’t.