Lady Antebellum soars and simmers in Camden

Hillary Scott, left, and Dave Haywood, of musical group Lady Antebellum, perform at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 1, 2012 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Hillary Scott, left, and Dave Haywood, of musical group Lady Antebellum, perform at the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards on Sunday, April 1, 2012 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (AP)
Posted: May 22, 2012

Whether you’re an awards fan or not, even the most casual viewer of the last several Grammy shows would have had to imagine that Lady Antebellum had taken over as hosts. Those broadcasts found Nashville’s finest in front of the cameras, winning song of the year and record of the year for “Need You Now,” as well as the prize for best country album.

The American Country Music Awards? Lady Antebellum won top vocal group, song of the year, and single of the year. It’s almost annoying how ubiquitous the band is during awards season.

When they packed Camden’s Susquehanna Bank Center on Saturday, Lady A achieved another personal best. The group sold more tickets for that show, said banjoist, guitarist, and pianist Dave Haywood, than the members had for any other tour date.

What’s their secret? The big reveal came when Haywood, Hillary Scott, and Charles Kelley immediately hit upon their bold, hoedown-having aesthetic. Setting the tremblingly epic tenor of the night, they opened with the brashly strumming, tom-tom-thumping “We Owned the Night,” the mandolin-fueled hiccup of “Perfect Day,” and the honky-tonking, nearly naughty (they work clean, nothing risqué here) “Lookin’ for a Good Time.”

There’s little subtlety with Lady Antebellum. The group’s harmonies soared, especially during the simmering “I Run to You.” Their arrangements were Technicolor, and their hooks, when apparent (not always, which created a lull in the set), were widescreen. Scott had a tangy voice. Kelley did a literal Michael Bolton impression.

When Scott took the bulk of the duet leads, Antebellum came across like the Eagles at their early ’70s haughtiest as fronted by Reba McEntire. Scott sounded like a catty angel with a lariat through the kicking “Love Don’t Live Here” and the sassy “Love Looks Good on You.” Kelley was a hot dog, with a clean, yet almost innocuous lead voice. Still, his backgrounds and harmonies were flawless, especially during a mostly acoustic set where the stripped-down band showed off Lady A’s one moment of illusiveness during the lustrous, churning “American Honey.” That most quintessential country number found them opening the floor to their opening acts, who joined the hit-making trio on jazzily breezy covers from the Allman Brothers (“Midnight Rider” with Thompson Square) and the Doobie Brothers (“Old Black Water” with Darius Rucker).

Impressive stuff, that.

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