If you like the sound of Lady Antebellum’s current single “You Look Good,” you will enjoy the tour of the same name even more with its R&B flavored sound. We were in attendance of opening night in Bakersfield, CA, as the group debuted their new show. I’m not typically a contemporary pop country fan, but the group — along with openers Brett Young and Kelsea Ballerini — put on a pretty good three plus hour show.
The night started with Young taking the stage ten minutes late but getting the crowd revved. He played a 20 minute set that included his latest single, “In Case You Didn’t Know” and his first, “Sleep Without You.” The 36 year old was energetic and addressed the crowd quite often. He even grabbed fans phones and took selfies while performing, something many artists are doing these days. Young may have performed only four songs, but he has the stage presence that will take him far.
Ballerini — who stood in front of the sound board near me during a portion of Young’s set and was instantly recognized by fans who began taking pictures — performed a 45 minute set that had her commanding the stage. At one point, she tripped to “ahhs” from the crowd and she joked, “There are stairs there.” The arena laughed at the joke when they realized she was okay. She performed each of her three No. 1 singles — “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs” and “Peter Pan” along with her latest single, “Yeah Boy.”
Ballerini incorporated quite a few video elements on the diamond shaped screen behind her. Various videos and lighting were used to compliment the songs including displaying pictures of her dog Dibs as she began to perform the song. Her pop country sound was well represented, but she became a rocker chick during “XO” which was the most rocking song she performed. She switched from playing her acoustic guitar to electric and headed towards the drums where she grabbed a stick and bashed a cymbal at times. A nice moment that kept the crowd on its feet.
The 23 year old singer/songwriter, who just signed a new publishing agreement with Sony/ATV and is working on her sophomore record, put the guitar aside for the piano for “High School,” a beautiful ballad about growing up. I suspect it will appear on her forthcoming album, but no confirmation yet.
During the intermission between Ballerini and Lady Antebellum, the crew kept the crowd going by playing a variety of current hits on the sound system to get fans dancing. The camera men targeted fans having fun which earned laughs from the audience. This was fun but different and kept the crowd entertained during the 20 minute break.
“What a crowd tonight! Are you kidding me?”
I suspected Lady A would open the show with the New Orleans flavored “You Look Good,” but they opted for “Downtown” after showcasing their brass section — made up of a single trumpet and trombone. A brief hip hop track played as the group appeared on stage in the blocks behind the band. The brass duo appeared on and off throughout the set giving each song a fresh sound.
The large video screen changed from a diamond during Ballerini’s set to a crown for Lady A. Six video bar screens, which also housed lights, moved throughout the night. They were often slanted and completed the crown when stacked properly. They also displayed lyrics to “Heart Break,” the title track of their new album due June 9th, across four of the bars.
“What a crowd tonight! Are you kidding me?” Charles Kelley addressed the crowd early on.
Among the highlights of the show was when the group played a song from Hillary Scott’s Grammy-winning family gospel album, Love Remains. The trio performed “Thy Will” with Dave Hayward on the piano front and center. Scott introduced the track with “Never be afraid to share your story,” and Kelley dedicated the song to the victims the Manchester bombings earlier this week in England.
The crowd was on their feet pretty much the entire time Lady A was on stage. Other than “Thy Will,” I don’t recall the crowd ever sitting. The audience enjoyed the cover songs they performed which included Shania Twain’s “You’re Still The One,” Tim McGraw’s “Something Like That” with Brett Young, a rocking rendition of Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love” with Kelsea Ballerini and closing the entire show with The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Women.” They even threw in a portion of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” before breaking in “Bartender” after the drum break during the encore. As expected, the trio’s biggest hit, “Need You Now,” was greeted with a warm welcome and turned into a sing along.
As I mentioned, I’m not typically a fan of contemporary pop country, but I wanted to check out these acts live to see what the hype was all about. Each act performed very well. I was surprised at their showmanship and crowd interaction. Sometimes you get performers who barely acknowledge the crowd, but all three made the arena feel welcomed and as if they were apart of the show. Plus, for an opening night, things went relatively smooth and each act was polished. There were those moments where the audio mix was off at times, but that’s what happens with live music and makes it real. Other than that, I thought the show as great and the visuals were stunning and complimented the music well!