Lady Antebellum RodeoHouston, Reliant Stadium March 1, 2012
Someone should put Lady Antebellum on TV every week. Let 'em guest-coach an episode of The Voice. Better yet would be a series like The Partridge Family or The Monkees (RIP Davy) that would blend concert footage and "behind the scenes" moments like the Georgia trio playing touch football and Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley taking turns braiding Hillary Scott's hair.
At their third straight RodeoHouston appearance Thursday, Lady A radiated the kind of All-American charisma that could have easily come across as plastic, but instead was ingratiating. The more you could tell they were trying really, really hard to please the audience, the more the crowd lapped it up.
Hating Lady A, or even trying to maintain any kind of active dislike for them, would be like hating backyard cookouts and Girl Scout Cookies. It's just not worth the effort.
Most of the set consisted of songs designed for young married couples and suburbanites, people who pay their taxes on time, don't cut people off on the freeway and get to church a little early on Sunday. They believe in true love, and don't go all the way on the first date, the subject of "Just a Kiss." I think the hour spent watching Lady A at the rodeo Thursday is the most wholesome I've felt in years.
You can expect to hear their new single, "Dancing Away With My Heart," at every prom and wedding you go to this spring. One or two songs Thursday felt more assembled than written, but only one or two. The band has real chops; Haywood and Kelley co-wrote every song but two on latest album Own the Night, and Scott chipped in on two-thirds.
Besides the Obligatory Piano Ballad about being a new dad ("Hello World") and the Massive Crossover Ballad about star-crossed lovers too proud to be the first one to pick up the phone ("Need You Now"), the music stuck to brisk, winsome folk-rock: A gamut between Fleetwood Mac's less tortured moments (opener "We Owned the Night") and John Denver's pharmaceutically medicated mellow ("American Honey").
In fact, I wrote down not to forget about the Houston Symphony's upcoming tribute to Denver April 5 at Jones Hall two different times, on "Our Kinda Love" and "American Honey." It was even easier to get caught up in the good vibes because the sound mix was far and away the best I've ever heard at the rodeo. Those kids can harmonize.
They've also studied their '80s rock playbook very well. "Love Don't Live Here" had the same sort of heartland nonchalance as John Cougar Mellencamp's American Fool, and "Lookin' for a Good Time" let the band stretch out and pay tribute to their favorite Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers albums.
Sadly, "Run to You" on the set list by the soundboard turned out to be "I Run to You," the trio's first No. 1 hit and not Bryan Adams' 1984 song. I'd still like to hear them take a whack at that sometime.
It all made wonder if we might see Kings of Leon at the rodeo in another year or two - or, even better, if these two bands could tour together. They're both young, good-looking and write songs that lots and lots of people want to hear. And it would be hilarious to watch Scott's drummer husband try to keep all the Followill boys away from her.
Hell, I'd go to that show.
Personal Bias: I don't expect to download Lady A anytime soon, but I liked this band much more than I had any possible right to.
The Crowd: Ladies' night. Good-looking ladies. And one of the Top 5 biggest rodeo crowds I think I've ever seen.
Random Notebook Dump: Right after the show, my iPod spat out Lou Reed's "Dirty Blvd.": "Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor, I'll piss on 'em." We really do live in two different Americas.
Mutton Busting Report: One kid rode all the way to the opposite fence. He ran second to a girl who turned completely upside down on her sheep and still held on.
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We Owned the Night Our Kinda Love Dancing Away With My Heart The Love I've Found In You Hello World American Honey I Run to You Just a Kiss Perfect Day Looking for a Good Time Need You Now