Lady Antebellum came out swinging Friday night, with an entertaining entrance from the back of Hard Rock Live and the trio's current hit, "Compass."
They didn't let up from there, keeping their collective feet on the gas pedal throughout their 90-minute show.
Guitarist Dave Haywood had said in an interview last week that Lady A was ready to let its hair down a little bit more, and get the people on their feet with a quicker, more entertaining show. After touring with Luke Bryan and Kenny Chesney, they've learned how to entertain, he said.
He is correct. Those in the front section on the floor stood almost the entire show, and even some people in the second and third floors of the almost sold-out Hard Rock Live were on their feet throughout.
The trio, especially, co-lead singer Charles Kelley, who sweated the most by far, used every trick in the book to get crowd interaction. For the underrated "Perfect Day," he encouraged, "don't be afraid to dance now." For "American Honey," Hillary Scott coaxed just the women to sing. For "I Run to You," the trio returned to the back of the Hard Rock Live, trying to get better connected with the back half of the audience. And between songs, Kelley sidled up to a patron with a glass of vodka and sneaked a sip. There was also the wave-the-lighted-cellphone moment.
Hits included "Just a Kiss," "Love Don't Live Here," "I Run to You," and "Downtown." They performed their biggest hit, “Need You Now,” during the encore, moving to Avicii’s “Wake Me Up.” That included an entertaining video mosaic of the many and varied who have covered the song, including those auditioning for talent shows and Lea Michele in "Glee."
They also performed their new single, "Bartender," described as a "swampy, sultry breakup anthem." It's available from digital retailers on May 20.
The band sounds best when Scott and Kelley sing together. One or the other is just good enough. I'd have preferred a few more moments of the pair.
With the move toward an uptempo playlist -- and uptempo versions of songs that are played more for the drama on the radio -- it's fair to ask "Are they compromising their music?" After all, we barely got a moment to catch our breath, and as far as feeling anything down in my gut, I can't really say I did.
It's also fair to dismiss that as music esoterica gobbledygook. And it's also fair to answer "Who cares?" People liked it, and that should be the final arbiter.