On Sunday, Lady Antebellum surprisingly stole the Grammy for Best Country Album in a night that, until then, had looked like Taylor Swift landslide.
On Tuesday opening act Darius Rucker in another country-fried surprise nearly stole the sold-out EnergySolutions Arena show that Lady Antebellum headlined.
But Nashville's Lady Antebellum, on its first arena headlining tour, has become such a crowd-pleasing phenomenon that there is arguably no other country band on the planet right now that can steal the trio's ever-brightening spotlight.
It was a happy Valentine's Night for country fans as Rucker and Lady Antebellum delivered two compelling, satisfying and fun sets, not to mention an electrifying assist from the first act, Thompson Square.
The trio of Lady Antebellum Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood rode the cresting wave from its Grammy-winning "Own the Night" album into Utah with a performance that demonstrated both vocal artistry and a unique stage show.
With three large video screens providing the backdrop, the oval-shaped set featured an elevated stage at the back, and a lower stage near the front. In between those two stages was an open pit that fit about 100 fans, with the crowd's ostentatious enthusiasm adding depth and movement to the visuals. The trio traveled back and forth all night on a catwalk that extended into the middle of the arena, with the bearded Kelly sporting skinny jeans and Scott rocking a bright-red-sequined top and tight, leather pants.
With each of the amiable members 30 or younger and Scott only 25 Lady Antebellum is an interesting amalgam of a band from the iPod generation, where genres blur and for whom Garth Brooks is classic country. The themes of the songs are focused on the tried-and-true subjects of young love. Aside from the occasional strum of a mandolin from bandleader Haywood, the music is meat-and-potatoes anthemic rock, even during sad songs such as show opener "We Owned the Night." It was telling that before the trio hit the stage, a D.J. played LMFAO, AC/DC, Britney Spears and Whitney Houston and not a lick of country. John Mellencamp's rootsy "Cherry Bomb" was also played prominently, a telling template for Lady Antebellum's sound.
But that is not to say that Lady Antebellum is cloying or inauthentic it just draws its influences from pop-radio-friendly choruses and arena-rock guitar solos. What makes Lady Antebellum special above all is the blend of Kelly's husky tenor and Scott's velvety soprano, the most seductive male-female harmonizing in country music.
Rucker, 45, showed that he is so much more than the former frontman of 1990's pop-rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, coming off as a convincing country artist who is not just looking to jump on the country bandwagon. In his 13-song, hour-long set, the South Carolinian not only performed his entertaining, laid-back original material but two Hootie tunes ("Only Wanna Be With You" and "Hold My Hand"), an emotive rendition of Prince's "Purple Rain," as well as the most "country" moment of the night: a cover of Hank Willams Jr.'s "Family Tradition." At the end of his diverse set, he received a hearty and long standing ovation not bad for a crowd amped up to own Valentine's Night with Lady Antebellum.
Review Lady Antebellum
R Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker and Thompson Square provide Valentine's Night to remember
With • Darius Rucker and Thompson Square
Where • EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City
When • Tuesday