Little Big Town keeps “Rollin'” on Breakers Tour in Reading
Little Big Town returned to Reading, PA last night (March 2nd) for their first headlining gig at the Santander Arena on The Breakers Tour. The show kicked off at 7:30 with openers Midland and Kacey Musgraves, and country music’s very own “Fab Four” took the stage around 9:20 pm for a 90 minute set.
The foursome-featuring husband and wife Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, and Phillip Sweet-share equal footing on stage as a group that focuses on harmonies rather than Ego. Opening with a quiet rendition of Elton John’s “Rocket Man,” the band performed an over-20 song set that featured their hits as well as new music.
The stage set up was rare, if not a completely unique practice: In addition to the central stage set up, there was a circular ‘B’ stage set up toward the back of the arena floor. This allowed for openers Midland to perform their inspired set of traditional country music. Middle act Kacey Musgraves was able to saunter into her mellow style of country on the main stage, almost directly after Midland wrapped up.
Little Big Town created height on the mainstage by using a large video screen that creased in a corner at the back of the stage. If that corner represents a page in a book, The Breaker LP is an important chapter in the band’s history. Coming off the heels of the wildly successful Pain Killer album, this new record has continued to establish Little Big Town as a household name.
Pain Killer, The Breaker, and 2012’s Tornado carried the setlist in near-equal measure. The night featured hit singles “Day Drinking,” “Rollin’” and “Pontoon.” The screen showed scenes appropriate to each story, with a motorboat appearing to languish in a river on the latter. During The Breaker album cut “Drivin’ Around,” the screen sillhoutted the group with a back-country two-lane road.
Little Big Town also threw back to one of their earlier albums, The Reason Why, with a rousing performance of “Little White Church” early in the set. This led into a few acoustic numbers on the smaller, ‘B’ stage at the back of the house. The perfect harmonies Little Big Town demonstrated on a cover of Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” were the highlight of this intimate set.
The group truly seemed to love being back in Reading, PA. Schlapman shouted at one point, “We love you Reading! We love your Pagoda, and we love your Taylor Swift.” The Pagoda is a local tourist attraction the band no-doubt visited during their treks to the area as an opener. And Swift is, of course, a superstar who started in country music. She actually wrote The Breaker lead single, “Better Man,” for the group. Little Big Town performed it later in the set.
It is truly amazing that Little Big Town can create as full a sound as they do with just a four piece backing band. Their keyboardist carries a not-so-inconspicuous MacBook on his layout, most likely for sound effects and incidentals such as a tornado’s wind or the sounds of a drumline. Even so, it never felt over produced or canned, and blended well with the live music.
Throughout the hour and a half set, the group did manage to reach back into their catalogue and pull out some much older music as well. During “I’m With the Band,” home videos of Little Big Town on the road through the years were displayed in larger-than-life fashion. The clip show was nearly more fascinating than the song, showing that Little Big Town really did fight long and hard to get where they are as headliners. Their career history is a tale that could take up three more articles.
Little Big Town closed out the night with a song that, if it were a human, would become a teenager this year. It has become tradition for the group to close out each concert with “Boondocks.” Dropped from Monument Records in 2002 after just one album, Little Big Town found a rare second chance three years later. Upon signing with Clint Black’s Equity Music Group, Little Big Town released The Road To Here. And while “Boondocks”-an anthem about being proud of “Where I came from”-only peaked at No. 9, it is still the song that began to define their musical identity, and they play it heartily. Indeed, it is wonderful to see how far they have come from where they came.