Lady Antebellum brought their 2014 Take Me Downtown tour Ontario, California on Saturday night to treat all us Californian’s to one phenomenal night of music. The evening brought out all the hits, some fun surprises, and a whole lot of excitement for fans of the trio. For those of us that went out with the intention of soaking in every moment of the opening acts as well, it was a musical adventure jammed packed with talent. Joining the tour for the Ontario stop were Grammy Award winner Kacey Musgraves and hitmaker Kip Moore.
Kacey Musgraves opened the show, bringing her witticisms and crystal clear vocals out for the occasion, entertaining the audience with hits like Blowing Smoke and Follow Your Arrow. Though the seats in the audience had yet to fill up, they still brought tons of energy for the opener, joining in with all her Hey Yeah’s, singing right along to every lyric of Merry Go Round, and grooving to her cover of the 90’s TLC hit No Scrubs. Dressed in adorable back mini-skirt with sky high pink heels, Kacey not only brought her multi-instrumental talent to the stage, but also her unique and flashy fashion sense. She picked up everything from the banjo to tambourine and right back to the guitar, her soft and meandering vocals not missing a single beat, expertly showcasing her talent for telling her stories. The only downside of her set was how short it was (though longer than I expected). The highlight was the soft and reflective, Keep It To Yourself, her new single and one of my favorite tracks off her debut album Same Trailer, Different Park.
Next up was the invincible Kip Moore, who had apparently been in the hospital that very morning fighting off an illness he’s been battling for more than a few weeks. There was speculation among fans that he might pull out of the show, so we were more than happy to see that he was still on the line-up when we arrived. Despite feeling under the weather, Kip put on a uber high energy performance, moving across the stage and immersing himself in every moment of the music. While there were moments where his voice was a hint more gritty than his usual growl, that was pretty much the only indication of his illness, and detracted nothing from the performance itself. He played his biggest hits, Beer Money and Something ‘Bout A Truck, allowing his energy to transfer to the audience as they took to their feet to jam right along with him. There were also some new songs interspersed throughout his set, including Cigarette, a mix of 1980’s rock and southern roots that is hooky and memorable for all the right reasons.
While Kip infuses his energetic, casually sexy attitude into every minute of his set, he commands his quieter moments just as much, sitting down for a thoughtful and sweet Hey Pretty Girl. Kip knows just how to play to his audience, from the songs he chooses to perform to giving fans little insights into his personality (a la his rant about iPhones and the overuse of Hashtags in every day life). More than that, it was when he vacated the stage completely during the “f**k you” break-up anthem, Fly Away, to run through the arena that you could clearly see the fervor and adoration women (and even some men) have for this dynamic performer. Needless to say, Kip Moore puts on a show that’s custom made for lovers of sing-a-long anthems, talented instrumental work, and country music.
Next up were the headlines, Lady Antebellum. There’s no doubting that Lady A have their own brand of power pop, country music, the softer side of the genre that’s easier for those who aren’t huge fans to digest. Contrary to critics that see a lack in value for this kind of music, I think it’s important that we have it, important that we bring new people to the genre who maybe can’t handle the Jason Aldean’s of the world or the twangy undercurrent of bluegrass and certain americana. We need these pop country acts to bring a bigger audience to our genre, and if we’re being honest, they have a hell of a lot to bring to the table.
Opening the show from the center of the arena with their newest hit, the Mumford & Sons style Compass, you could immediately sense the excitement and anticipation in the audience. A rush of voice flooded the arena, hinting to what was in store for the rest of the evening. They powered through songs like Just A Kiss and Get to Me, throwing back to their debut album with the rambling Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. Spot on vocals, tons of beautifully layered harmonies, and stunning colorful backdrops made for a night of perfect music.
If there’s one thing the country genre can do, it’s performer live. Our singers can really sing, our guitarists can truly jam, and there’s no genre that tells a good story like we do. Lady A brought these essentials into every moment of their 90-ish minute set; including their acoustic medley that included favorites like Dancing Away With My Heart, Wanted You More and a beautifully introspective moment on Hello World. The show served as something as a biography and discography of their lives up to this point, the songs that put them on the map and garnered them nationwide attention, number one hits, and best selling albums. They allowed audience members insight into why a song spoke to them, what the songs meant to them, and nurtured the fan/artist relationship in a way that is so conducive to what the country genre is at its core.
The highlight of the night? When Lady A brought Kacey Musgraves and Kip Moore back up on stage for a collaborative cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s Landslide. The mix of voices and stunning harmonies brought the song to a whole new level, one that should be heard again and again throughout the rest time. Can I make a request that they record this and release it? I think it could be a major hit.
I’ve seen Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley, and Dave Haywood bring their voices together time and time again, and they never fail to amaze me. They’re humble, emotive, and inspiring performers that use their music to convey a message of hope and love. I could see them a million more times and walk away with a brand new message and set of emotions each time. If I have to have one complaint, it’s that they could definitely add a few less hits and a few more album cuts. I’m a huge fan of All For Love and would probably pass out if I ever heard Charles Kelley sing the first chorus live (he kills it on that song). But other than that, I think they gave their fans exactly what they hoped to hear, and I can’t wait for another opportunity to see them live again.
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