Lady Antebellum, Joe's Pub, New York, NY 2/20/2008
Despite a self-proclaimed "confusing" band name, the country music trio comprising Lady Antebellum leaves no question about its talent. In the group's New York City debut at Joe's Pub, an intimate concert space in the heart of Greenwich Village, lead vocalists Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott (daughter of Nashville's Linda Davis) and lead instrumentalist (on both guitar and piano) Dave Haywood exhibited an endearing camaraderie and humility along with considerable musical ability.
The emotion in their music is refreshingly palpable, and it should come as no surprise - they were quick to mention that they first met through Nashville's involved songwriting circuit, and still consider writing music to be their collective first love. The result of their collaboration has a sophistication not normally found in mainstream country (one will note significantly fewer "country" clichés such as 12-guage shotguns and trucks in the lyrics), but lacks any sort of elitism. In fact, the down-home good looks of all three combined with their breezy conversational style and confidence make them the sort of folks with whom you'd like to grab a beer after the show.
Though the songs were - in true country style - a bit heavy-handed (break-ups, distance, and deceit are common themes), the group continually lightened the mood with self-deprecating jabs and quips. During a performance of one unreleased ballad ("All We'd Ever Need," the first the group ever penned), the ruggedly handsome front man Kelley paused briefly, froze, and then quickly confessed he had forgotten the lyrics. He pleaded for one of his crew to throw him the next line, and the response revealed much about the group's chemistry: Scott laughed heartily and said she didn't know the lyrics because it was the one song she hadn't written with the boys of Lady Antebellum; Haywood said that although he wrote the piece, he had absolutely no idea which words came next. Cognizant he was among a crowd of industry players from EMI Records and MTV, Kelley joked that the gaffe marked the end of Lady Antebellum's tenure with Capitol Records. Eventually, he remembered the words and continued the song, which he calls his favorite from their debut album.
Lady Antebellum's self-titled album comes out on April 15th, featuring all the intricate, soulful harmonies and powerful lyrics that listeners can grow to expect of this emerging country powerhouse. "Love Don't Live Here," the group's gritty and fun single, is currently ranked 21st on the Billboard country charts.