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Lady Antebellum brings country flair to Worcester

By Dana Trismen

Section: Arts

May 19, 2012

The trio Lady Antebellum is a monster in country music. They have been awarded Best Country Album at the Grammys for the country-pop crossover album “Need You Now,” and they’ve also been honored with Top New Group by the Academy of Country Music. With Hillary Scott and Charles Kelley sharing vocals and Dave Haywood on guitar, Lady A’s accomplishments are nothing to sneer at.

Currently touring with their third album, “Own the Night,” Lady A performed to a large crowd May 5 at the DCU Center in Worcester. Thompson Square, a new country duo, and Darius Rucker, previously of Hootie & the Blowfish, opened the show. Thompson Square is composed of Keifer and Shawna Thompson, a husband and wife duo that somehow managed to win Top Vocal Duo from the Academy of Country Music this year. While Thompson Square has released one hot single (“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”), their following is not very large and the crowd did not respond very enthusiastically to their act.

In comparison, the audience’s response to Darius Rucker was astonishing. Originally the lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish, Rucker leaped over to country music in 2008. The first black man to chart a number one single on the Hot Country Songs chart in 25 years, Rucker’s soothing voice can certainly carry his various songs about enjoying the moment and living life freely. The audience adored Rucker, clapping ferociously after every song and singing along to favorites like “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” Despite his warm welcome, it also could be said that Rucker’s act lasted far too long. For someone with only two country albums with songs that often sound eerily similar, it was a lot of Rucker in one sitting. He also performed for a little more than an hour, an extended expanse of time to have to sit through and wait for Lady A. Despite the majority of the audience’s interest, the concert was for Lady A, not a shared experience with Rucker.

Lady A themselves were impressive, managing to sound as good onstage as they do on their albums. Yet, by seeing them live, the only member that truly shone through was Charles Kelley. While Kelley and Scott usually share vocals, Scott’s voice is not terribly interesting. While it’s powerful and melodic, it’s also nothing special. She has a tendency to stand solidly on-stage, occasionally tapping her foot but not doing much else. Dave Haywood was granted a few moments to shine, at one time performing a guitar solo on top of a piano that rose onto the stage. Yet he too faded into the background in comparison to Kelley. While it sounds like Kelley and Scott are equally talented on their CDs, live Kelley is far more intriguing to watch and sounds much better. Additionally, standing well over six feet, he towers over everyone else on stage physically. Moving his body enthusiastically and often encouraging the crowd to join in, Kelley is just a better performer. His voice is incredibly solid, moving fluidly from sad, softer songs like “Hello World” to angry, pump-up ones like “Love Don’t Live Here.” While Lady A may be composed of three core members, Kelley is the only one that could potentially have a solo career later in life.

Despite the fact they were touring to promote their third album, Lady A played surprisingly little from “Own the Night.” Instead, they seemed to prefer audience favorites, like “Love This Pain,” “Run to You” and “Need You Now.” This is not reflective of the success of their third album—in fact, “Own the Night” topped the Billboard 200 and was one of the most successful country albums of 2011. Lady A’s focus on their older tried-and-true songs may be due to critical reception. Some critics have argued that their new album is a rehashing of their old tunes. Audience members were also more responsive to older songs, singing along and waving their arms.

For a country band, Lady A excels at crowd-raising, encouraging audience members to dance and stand up instead of simply sitting in their seats. While the fact remains that it is Charles Kelley who has the true talent, the trio manages to please audiences and will be big names in country music for years to come.

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