Lady Antebellum @ The O2, London (10 October 2017)

Concert promoters take note – how you make concert goers happy and give them value for money is provide them with not one but two opening acts who have each put out successful debut albums and could probably, as Lady A said themselves, headline concerts in their own right.

An hour after the doors opened, Brett Young came out and did a short acoustic set.  I re-listened to his album this weekend in preparation for this and the old adage that sometimes songs sound better stripped down definitely rang true here giving Brett and opportunity to showcase his vocal talents and guitar skills.  He kept saying again and again how he loved how quiet and attentive British audiences are and how we definitely go to hear to music as opposed to just to party.  I don’t know how they do it in the States but if I’ve spent £30 / £50/ £80 per ticket you better believe I’m there to hear the music!  Anyway, he said that that appreciation made him mix up the set and include a cover of his favourite song ever – Hallelujah.  Yes that song is over-covered, as he himself admitted, but he did it justice.

After a short break we were treated to a stellar show by Kelsea Ballerini.  I feel bad about gushing more about her and her performance than the band I came to see but I was truly blown away.  I love every song on her debut album so I don’t know why I was so surprised to enjoy her set so much but she was everything I want in a live performance.

She played enough songs to make it feel like a mini concert in itself and man that girl can rock.  Nearly all her songs were rocked up and the young guys in her band lapped up the opportunity to rock out with guitar and drum solos.  One of my favourites was XO.  I don’t tend to take videos at concerts as the acoustics come out rubbish and it doesn’t do justice to the artist’s vocal abilities but I found a video on YouTube from one of her previous concerts to illustrate my point.

Kelsea is also master of the segue seamlessly moving from a little story about her life and experiences into the next song.  I know artists tend to tour to promote their latest albums and it sometimes falls a bit flat when they play songs which are yet to be released and the audience aren’t familiar with.  Kelsea did a few from her soon-to-be released album but I enjoyed them and it succeeded in getting me excited to get my hands on her second album as soon as it is released.

She was an absolutely engaging artist, full of energy bouncing around on stage, rocking out, sitting down, playing her guitar, even some slightly OTT whacking of drums.  I for one would definitely go and see her headline her own concert – and in many ways it feels like I already have.

Something I love about seeing artists live whilst they are early on in their career, as was the case with Kelsea, is that it greatly increases the chances of your favourite songs making it on the playlist.  That is where Lady Antebellum fell down for me.

My three favourite songs didn’t make the list: All For Love, Long Stretch Of Love and Golden.  I had looked at the setlist beforehand so my expectations were managed and I knew there would be a bias for songs from Heart Break.  Their latest record has grown on me but I really do like 747 so it’s always a real pity that I hear them say in interviews that they felt that they had lost their musical direction a bit and that’s why they needed a break.

Anyway, their set was excellent, in no small part due to the addition of killer trumpet and trombone players that opened the show with Downtown.  They were so full of energy and enthusiasm and jaw-dropping solos.  Charles, Dave and Hillary were on fine form.  I’ve got to hand it to Hillary – pregnant with twins and still standing up on stage performing for well over an hour and belting out perfect vocals!  And sweet Dave who only said one sentence to the crowd the whole evening but his musical abilities on guitar and piano spoke for themselves.

Highlights include Heart Break and Bartender, the band solos during Good To Be Alive, especially when Charles introduced Hillary’s husband, the band’s drummer, as her Baby Daddy and when Lady Antebellum invited Brett Young and Kelsea Ballerini back on stage to join them in a cover of Shania Twain’s You’re Still The One.

It was the last night of their world tour and I think Charles decided to just go all out.  During Love Don’t Live Here he got off the stage and went for a walk around the arena floor.  Aside from when Taylor Swift does her walk to the “B” stage, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone just simply climb over barriers and walk randomly amongst the fans at The O2.  I think he gave his bouncers a heart attack as well as just when they thought he was going to get back on the stage, he actually went and climbed another barrier and made it onto Level 1!

Lady Antebellum saved the best for last and did Need You Now and a cover of Tom Petty’s Learning To Fly as encores.  The perfect way to end an excellent concert.

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