Lady Antebellum’s opening song, “We Owned The Night,” may have at first seemed presumptuous – the night had just begun.
But by the end of those first three minutes, the trio’s impressive vocals and energetic stage presence showed the song choice was not a boast, but a promise that they would deliver on, song after song for the next hour and a half on Thursday night, Nov. 17.
Fresh off their third consecutive win for Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year, the trio of Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood and Hillary Scott returned to the Valley as first-time headliners at Grand Canyon University Arena.
They entered the two-tiered stage on a platform that rose from beneath the floor. Scott wore a lace black dress, leggings and boots. Her dark brown hair was simply styled down, her lipstick a bold red. Kelley sported tight blue jeans and a blue collared shirt that was unbuttoned nearly halfway down his chest. Haywood was also in jeans – it was a country concert after all – paired with a grey shirt and dark leather jacket.
They followed “We Owned The Night” with “Stars Tonight,” a deep track from their second album “Need You Now” about the shared exhilaration felt by performers and the audience at pop-culture concerts such as this one that had the crowd on its feet, screaming and yelling.
Scott and Kelley worked the oval-shaped stage during “Wanted You More,” a song off the group’s latest album, “We Owned The Night.” As the song progressed and built, the two singers walked down opposite sides of the stage, alternating the lead while the red spotlights lit and dimmed on each singer accordingly. The mid-tempo song showcased one of the things that make the group great: the flawless blend of Scott and Kelley’s complementary voices. At the song’s high point, the two stood face to face, belting out wistful lyrics.
The mood lightened during “Love Don’t Live Here,” the first single off their namesake debut album. Haywood’s guitar skills shined during the performance. Venturing into the rock world, his solo while standing atop a red piano showed how a great musician can turn a guitar riff into one of the best and most memorable moments of a show.
“That was pretty rock star of you, Buddy,” Kelley said to him after.
Haywood played the piano during the next two sedate songs, “When You Were Mine” and “Hello World.”
Scott said hello to the crowd, talking about Lady Antebellum’s previous Phoenix performance, last year on Halloween.
“I was dressed as Reba,” she said, giggling a little. “And the boys were Brooks and Dunn.”
After Kelley hummed a bit of a Brooks and Dunn song, a few people in the audience shouted “Sing it! Sing it!”
“Sing it, she says,” Kelley said, pointing to the crowd. He then started a short impromptu performance of “If You See Him/If You See Her” by Brooks and Dunn featuring Reba McEntire with Scott singing harmony. It was a charming scene that showed the chemistry of the two lead singers.
The five-piece backing band switched out guitars for banjos and stand-up bass, and joined Lady Antebellum on the stage’s catwalk to lend a bluegrass flavor to the next two songs: “American Honey,” and a mash-up cover of “Midnight Rider” by the Allman Brothers Band and “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers. Openers Randy Montana and Josh Kelley (Charles’ brother) returned to the stage for the entertaining mash-up. Josh’s goofy dance moves, evident charisma and big voice turned him into a scene, or in this case, stage stealer. (Josh’s single “Georgia Clay” reached No. 17 on Billboard’s Country Songs list.)
With electric guitars and keyboards back in use, the band launched into “Just A Kiss,” the Platinum lead single from the group’s third album that became a mega-hit over the summer. Scott and Kelley were perfectly in tune as the slow and sweet ballad gradually increased into an explosive crescendo. The lights, the sound and the personalities blended expertly and were all worthy of an arena show. If their first single, “Love Don’t Live Here,” was their ticket to fame, this performance of “Just A Kiss” was their arrival.
Lady Antebellum set list
“We Owned The Night”
“Our Kind Of Love”
“Dancin’ Away With My Heart”
“Wanted You More”
“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”
“When You Were Mine”
“Midnight Rider” (the Allman Brothers Band cover) and “Black Water” (Doobie Brothers)
“As You Turn Away”
“Just A Kiss”
“I Run To You”
“Sweet Emotion” (Aerosmith cover)
“Lookin’ For A Good Time”
“Need You Now”